Talking About Disaster: A Guide for Standard Messages
Table of Contents
Introduction and Purpose
What Is in This Guide
Using This Guide
Hazard Messages
Chemical Emergencies
Fires, Residential
Fires, Wildland
Floods and Flash Floods
Hazardous Materials Incidents
Heat (Heat Wave)
Hurricanes and Tropical Storms
Nuclear Power Plant Incidents
Thunderstorms, Severe
Winter Storms
Special Populations Messages
Talking to Children About Disasters
Preparedness Action Messages
Family Disaster Plan
Disaster Supplies Kit
Emergency Supplies for your Vehicle
First Aid Kit Contents
First Aid Kit for Pets
Stocking and Storing Food and Water
Smoke Alarms
Carbon Monoxide Alarms
Fire Extinguishers
Arc-Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCIs)
Home Fire Sprinkler Systems
Portable Generators
Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-Disaster Safety Messages
Evacuation, Sheltering, and Post-Disaster Safety
What to do if Evacuation is Necessary Because of a Storm
What to do When There is Flooding
“Wind Safe” Room
How to Shelter-in-Place (Chemical Incidents)
Factors for Protection from Radioactive Fallout
Food and Water Safety During/Post Disaster
Emergency Sanitation
How to Recognize and Treat Heat Emergencies
Frostbite and Hypothermia
Chemical Emergencies at Home
Learn about the chemicals that could pose a threat to you and members of your household. Contact agencies with expertise on hazardous household materials, such as the Poison Control Center, local public health department, or county or municipal office responsible for environmental protection. Get information from them about potentially dangerous household products and what to do if someone becomes poisoned with them. Ask specifically about how to treat poisoning caused by cleaners, germicides, deodorizers, detergents, drain and bowl cleaners, gases, home medications, laundry bleaches, liquid fuels, and paint removers and thinners.

Always call the Poison Control Center first (1-800-222-1222) before treating these or any other poisoning.

Why talk about home chemical emergencies?
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. We use chemicals every day. They are found in our kitchens, medicine cabinets, basements, garages, and gardens. Chemicals help us keep our food fresh and our bodies clean. They help plants grow and fuel our cars. And chemicals help us to live longer, healthier lives.

When used properly, the chemicals normally found in a home pose little threat. When used improperly, in adverse conditions, or for jobs for which they were not intended, chemicals can be harmful, even deadly.

Knowing how to handle chemical products and how to react if an emergency should occur can reduce the risk of injury.

What is a home chemical emergency?
A home chemical emergency is a dangerous situation that arises when chemicals are spilled, accidentally released, or used improperly. Some chemicals that are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions. Most chemical accidents occur in our own homes and can be prevented.

How can I protect myself from chemical emergencies at home?
Anyone of any age can be adversely affected by chemicals or other substances through breathing, swallowing, or touching. A person can be exposed to a chemical even though he or she does not see or smell anything unusual. The best way to avoid chemical accidents is to read and follow the directions for use, storage, and disposal of chemical products.

What is the best source of information if a chemical emergency occurs at home?
If a chemical spills from the container of a household product, read the product label for instructions or call 9-1-1 or your local emergency number. If you know or have reason to believe that exposure to the chemical may cause poisoning, call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222. If your pet appears to have been exposed to a poison or other toxin, call your veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center at 1-888-426- 4435.

How can I properly dispose of household hazardous waste?
People sometimes dispose of household hazardous wastes improperly, causing danger to humans, animals, the environment, sanitation systems, etc. Call your local or state solid waste officials or recycling or environmental agency to learn how to dispose of specific hazardous wastes so they will not cause harm.

Be Prepared for Household Chemical Emergencies
Protect Yourself

• Use, store, and dispose of chemicals according to instructions.
• Post the Poison Control Center number by every telephone.
• Know the symptoms of chemical poisoning.

You should:
Dispose of chemicals according to the instructions on each product’s label. Disposing of chemicals properly ensures that they will not adversely affect the safety of the environment and the health and well being of the public, including your household.

Note: If you have questions about how to dispose of chemicals or products that may contain chemicals, call your local or state solid waste officials or recycling or environmental agency.

Read the instructions before using a new chemical product and be sure to store household chemicals according to the instructions on the label.
Store chemicals in a safe, secure location, preferably up high and always out of the reach of children.
Avoid mixing household chemical products. Deadly toxic fumes can result from the mixture of chemicals, such as chlorine bleach and ammonia.
Never smoke while using household chemicals. Avoid using hair spray, cleaning solutions, paint products, or pesticides near an open flame, pilot light, lighted candle, fireplace, wood-burning stove, etc. Although you may not be able to see or smell them, vapor particles in the air could catch fire or explode.
Clean up spilled chemicals immediately with rags. Protect your eyes and skin by wearing gloves and goggles or safety glasses. Allow the fumes in the rags to evaporate outdoors, and then dispose of the rags by wrapping them in newspaper, placing them in a sealed plastic bag, and putting them outside in your trash can.
Buy only as much of a chemical as you think you will use. If some of the chemical is left over, try to give it to someone who will use it or dispose of it according to the instructions. Storing hazardous chemicals increases the risk of chemical emergencies.
Keep an A-B-C-rated fire extinguisher in your home. Get training from your local fire department in how to use it. (See “Fire Extinguishers”)
Protect your pets and other animals from possible exposure to all chemicals
Post by all telephones the Poison Control Center number (1-800-222-1222), the Animal Poison Control Center number (1-888-426-4435), and your local emergency number (9-1-1 or the emergency number in your area).
Recognize the symptoms of chemical poisoning:
Difficulty breathing
Irritation of the eyes, skin, throat, or respiratory tract
Changes in skin color
Headache or blurred vision
Clumsiness or lack of coordination
Cramps or diarrhea

What to Do if a Chemical Emergency Occurs at Home
For chemical poisoning, immediately call the Poison Control Center and begin treatment.
If fire or explosion threatens, get out, and then call for help.
If a person eats or drinks a non-food substance, you should immediately:
Find the container the substance came in and take it to the telephone. (Medical professionals may need specific information from the container to give you the best emergency advice.)
Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
If directed to do so, call 9-1-1 or the emergency number in your area.
Follow carefully the instructions of the Poison Control Center operator and the EMS dispatcher. Be aware that the first aid advice found on containers may not be appropriate. Do not give anything by mouth unless medical professionals advise you to do so.

Chemical Emergencies at Home
If a chemical gets into a person’s eyes, you should immediately:
Call the Poison Control Center at 1-800-222-1222.
Flush the eyes with clear water for a minimum of 15 minutes or take other action as directed by the Poison Control Center. Delaying first aid can greatly increase the likelihood of permanent injury.

If a person is burned by chemicals, you should immediately:
Call 9-1-1 for emergency help.
Administer first aid.
Remove clothing and jewelry from around the injury.
Pour clean, cool water over the burn for 15 to 30 minutes.
Loosely cover the burn with a sterile or clean dressing so it will not stick to the burn.

If there is danger of a chemical fire or explosion, you should:
Get out of the building immediately. Do not waste time collecting items or calling the fire department.
Once you are safely away from danger, call the fire department from outside using a cell phone or a neighbor’s telephone
Stay upwind and away from the building to avoid breathing toxic fumes.

If you have been exposed to toxic chemicals, you should:
Wash your hands, arms, or other body parts that may have been exposed to a toxic chemical. Chemicals may continue to irritate the skin until they are washed off.
Remove your clothing, being careful not to pull it over your face. Cut the clothing off if necessary.
Discard clothing that may have been contaminated by toxic chemicals. Some chemicals may not wash out completely. Discarding clothes will prevent potential future exposure.

Protect your animals. Be aware that animals are more likely to explore substances within their reach, particularly those with an attractive odor (including substances such as chocolate which are toxic to most pets). Animals will often lick their paws, fur, or skin and swallow a substance that they have walked in. Wash your animals’ paws and coat if necessary and prevent licking as much as possible until you have taken the animal to your veterinarian.

Initial development of this guide was made possible by a grant from the Home Safety Council, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to helping prevent the nearly 21 million medical visits
that occur on average each year from unintentional injuries in the home. Through national programs and partners across America, the Home Safety Council works to educate and empower families to take actions that help keep them safe in and around their homes. This guide is the product of the hard work and collaboration of many professionals affiliated with the organizations partnering with the American Red Cross, which represents the expertise and commitment of the following organizations:

American Geological InstituteDisability Preparedness CenterHome Safety CouncilThe Humane Society of the United StatesInstitute for Business & Home SafetyInternational Association of Emergency ManagersNational Fire Protection AssociationNational Interagency Fire CouncilNational SafeKids CampaignNational Science FoundationU.S. Consumer Product Safety CommissionU.S. Department of Agriculture -Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service -Extension Disaster Education Network -Food Safety and Inspection ServiceU.S. Department of Commerce - NOAA/National Weather ServiceU.S. Department of Health and Human Services - Centers for Disease Control and Prevention - Food and Drug AdministrationU.S. Department of Homeland Security -Federal Emergency Management Agency -U.S. Fire AdministrationU.S. Department of Interior - U.S. Geological Survey
From: Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages. Washington, D.C., 2007.

Html Copyright The Disaster Center 2012

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