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Emergency Preparedness Handbook/Calendar

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April - Chemical/Biological Preparedness

Every year, the Farmington Hills Fire Department responds to several hazardous material spills, most of which result from vehicle accidents involving automotive fluids such as gasoline, diesel fuel, oil, and antifreeze.

The Chemical Manufacturers Association estimates that in an average year, one out of every three trains and one out of every ten trucks is carrying hazardous materials.

Hazardous materials incidents can be transportation related or fixed at a commercial site. These can pose a potential risk to life, health or property, and hazards can exist during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal.

During a hazardous materials incident, you may be asked to evacuate, such as in the event of a chemical spill or gas pipeline rupture. It is important to listen for specific instructions regarding what to do in each and every incident. What may be effective protection in one situation may not be appropriate for another.  You may also be asked to “shelter- in-place”.

An informed public is a safe public. – Shari Garms, EPC Member

If you witness a hazardous materials accident, call 9-1-1. Stay away from the incident site. If you are outside during an incident, try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind. In general, try to go at least one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area; for many incidents you will have to go much further. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.

After a hazardous material incident: If you have evacuated, don’t return home until you are told you can do so. When you can return home, open windows, vents, and turn on fans to provide ventilation. If you think you might have been contaminated, seek medical help and/or follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. Remove all exposed clothing and place it and your shoes in tightly sealed containers.

Taking shelter Sheltering-in-place means to take cover in a building you are already in rather than to evacuate during a chemical or hazardous materials release. If you are to shelter in place, an announcement will be made on local television and radio stations.

Unlike sheltering in place during severe weather, sheltering in place during a chemical emergency will not last longer than a few hours, and this process is meant to buy time while the hazardous material dissipate, and so that other emergency measures can be taken.

During almost all hazardous materials incidents involving danger to the public, an order will be given to evacuate, and not to shelter in place. Nevertheless, it is important to prepare for either an evacuation order, or a shelter in place order.

The best preparation for a hazardous materials event is for you and your household to be prepared to shelter-in-place, and/or to evacuate.  And the best preparation for either of these events is for you to have your home emergency preparedness kit ready to use, and ready to go. So in April, your worksheet will be easy if you’ve already assembled your kit. If you haven’t, this is a great opportunity to do so. See January: Emergency Supply Kits for Home and Car for instructions as to what to include in your own personal emergency kit.

  • Review and update your household’s family emergency kits. (See January: Emergency Supply Kits for Home and Car.)
  • Have a household drill on quickly securing your home, in case you are told there is time to do this before an evacuation. Close all windows, shut vents, and turn off attic, heating, and air conditioning fans. Unplug appliances. Know how to minimize damage to water pipes during winter by turning off the water main, draining your faucets, and turning off inside valves for external faucets and opening the outside faucets to drain. Close and lock your doors.
  • Prepare a shelter-in-place room in your home.
    • Choose a shelter-in-place room. This room should be above ground, large enough to accommodate all household members and pets, and have the fewest possible exterior doors and windows.
    • Assemble and store a shelter kit in your designated room. The kit should include plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, and enough towels and/or modeling clay to stuff into cracks.
    • Make an instruction sheet and post it in your designated room that says: “Stuff towels tightly under each door and tape around the sides and top of each door. Cover each window and vent in the room with a single piece of plastic sheeting, taping all around the edges of the sheeting to provide a continuous seal. If there are any cracks or holes in the room, such as those for bathroom pipes, fill these with modeling clay.”
  • Have a household drill on sheltering in place. Get household members and pets in as quickly as possible. Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems. With your emergency supplies kit, go to your shelter-in-place room. Pretend you are preparing the room for a 3 – 5 hour stay (however, we don’t recommend that you actually prepare the room - this is a drill only!). Listen to your battery-powered radio.

 


 

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