Chemical EmergencyWhy talk about chemical emergencies?
Hazardous materials are chemical substances, which if released or mis-
used, can pose a threat to the environment. These chemicals are used in
industry, agriculture, medicine, research, and consumer goods. As many
as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined
as “hazardous chemicals.” Each year, over 1,000 new synthetic chemicals
are introduced. Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flam-
mable and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials.
These substances are most often released as a result of transportation
accidents or because of chemical accidents in manufacturing plants.
What is a home chemical emergency,
and a major chemical emergency?
Chemicals are a natural and important part of our environment. Even
though we often don’t think about it, we use chemicals every day. They
can be found in our kitchens, medicine
cabinets, basements, and garages.
Chemicals help us keep our food fresh
and our bodies clean. They help our
plants grow and fuel our cars. And
chemicals make it possible for us to live
longer, healthier lives.
A home chemical emergency arises when chemicals are used improp-
erly. Some chemicals that are safe, and even helpful in small amounts, can
be harmful in larger quantities or under certain conditions. In fact, most
chemical accidents occur in our own homes, and they can be prevented.
A major chemical emergency is an accident that releases a hazardous
amount of a chemical into the environment. Accidents can happen under-
ground, on railroad tracks or highways, and at manufacturing plants.
These accidents sometimes result in a fire or explosion, but many times
Hazardous materials are most often
released as a result of transportation
accidents or because of chemical acci-
dents in manufacturing plants.
Talking About Disaster: Guide for Standard Messages 29
Produced by the
American Red Cross,
FEMA, IAEM, IBHS,
NFPA, NWS, USDA/