Chemical agents are poisonous vapors, aerosols,
liquids, and solids that have toxic effects
on people, animals, or plants. They can
be released by bombs or sprayed from aircraft,
boats, and vehicles. They can be used as
a liquid to create a hazard to people and
the environment. Some chemical agents may
be odorless and tasteless. They can have
an immediate effect (a few seconds to a
few minutes) or a delayed effect (2 to
48 hours). While potentially lethal, chemical
agents are difficult to deliver in lethal
concentrations. Outdoors, the agents often
dissipate rapidly. Chemical agents also
are difficult to produce.
A chemical attack could come without warning.
Signs of a chemical release include people
having difficulty breathing; experiencing
eye irritation; losing coordination; becoming
nauseated; or having a burning sensation
in the nose, throat, and lungs. Also, the
presence of many dead insects or birds
may indicate a chemical agent release.
Before a Chemical
The following are guidelines
for what you should do to prepare for a
- Check your disaster supplies
kit to make sure it includes:
- A roll of duct tape and scissors.
- Plastic for doors, windows, and
vents for the room in which you
will shelter in place. To save
critical time during an emergency,
pre-measure and cut the plastic
sheeting for each opening.
- Choose an internal room to shelter,
preferably one without windows
and on the highest level.
During a Chemical Attack
The following are guidelines for what you
should do in a chemical attack.
If you are instructed to remain in your
home or office building, you should:
- Close doors and windows and
turn off all ventilation, including furnaces,
air conditioners, vents, and fans.
- Seek shelter in an internal room and
take your disaster supplies kit.
- Seal the room with duct tape and plastic
- Listen to your radio for instructions
If you are caught
in or near a contaminated area, you should:
- Move away immediately in a direction
upwind of the source.
- Find shelter as quickly as possible.
After a Chemical Attack
Decontamination is needed within minutes
of exposure to minimize health consequences.
Do not leave the safety of a shelter to
go outdoors to help others until authorities
announce it is safe to do so.
affected by a chemical agent requires
immediate medical attention from a
professional. If medical help is not
immediately available, decontaminate yourself
and assist in decontaminating others.
Decontamination guidelines are as follows:
- Use extreme caution when helping
others who have been exposed to chemical
- Remove all clothing and other items
in contact with the body. Contaminated
clothing normally removed over the head should be
cut off to avoid contact with the eyes,
nose, and mouth. Put contaminated clothing and
items into a plastic bag and seal it.
Decontaminate hands using soap and water. Remove eyeglasses
or contact lenses. Put glasses in a
pan of household bleach to decontaminate them, and
then rinse and dry.
- Flush eyes with water.
- Gently wash face and hair with soap
and water before thoroughly rinsing
- Decontaminate other body areas likely
to have been contaminated. Blot (do
not swab or scrape) with a cloth soaked in soapy water
and rinse with clear water.
- Change into uncontaminated clothes.
Clothing stored in drawers or closets
is likely to be uncontaminated.
- Proceed to a medical facility for
screening and professional treatment.