Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment

What to do in a chemical emergency

If you think you have been exposed…

Eyes –

Gently hold your eyes open, or have someone assist you, and flush with saline or lukewarm water for 15 minutes. Encourage the person to blink while rinsing. If wearing contacts, remove the lenses after first flushing the eyes for 5 minutes. 

Skin –

Remove contaminated clothing and flood skin with water for 15 minutes. Then wash gently with soap and water and rinse. It is important to cut off clothing rather than pulling off to avoid exposing other areas of the body.

Inhaled –

Immediately get the person to fresh air. Avoid breathing fumes. If victim is not breathing, call for help and start assisted (mouth-to-mouth) breathing.

Evacuation and sheltering in place…

During a fire or following a chemical release or explosion, local officials may call for evacuations in specific areas at greatest risk or advise residents to “shelter in place”


If your home, school, or place of business is being evacuated, act quickly and follow the instructions of emergency personnel. Identify a location outside your neighborhood where your family can meet or go to the identified shelter. Call a friend or relative in another state to give your location and to say you are safe. Local phone lines may be busy, so plan ahead to have an out-of-state contact. Emergency coordinators will let you know when it is safe to re-enter.

Sheltering in place

Emergency personnel may advise that staying indoors is a safer option. If so, close all windows and exterior doors, turn off fans, heating and air conditioning, and close the fireplace damper. Go to an interior room without windows. A higher location is preferred because some chemicals are heavier than air and may leak into basements or lower levels even when the windows are closed. Use duct tape to seal around doors and vents into the room. Listen to your radio or television for further instructions.

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