How to act in the case of leakage of dangerous chemicals (25)

Different dangerous chemicals (DC) react in a different way depending on the state and environment where they leak from. The Fire Rescue Service of the South Moravian Region in partnership with the Police of the Czech Republic - the city police headquarters of Brno and Diocesan Charity of Brno will give you a piece of advise what to do in different cases of leakage of DC. You will also learn about the most common DC you can meet.


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When may leakage of DC occur?

Leakage of DC into the environment may occur as a result of an operator's error, technology production failure, while storing, or during the transport.

What DC can we commonly meet?

The most common DC you can meet are ammonia and chlorine. These substances will be dealt with in detail below. Further, we should not forget to mention natural gas. Under certain conditions it can explode during its leakage.

Last but not least, we will mention radioactive substances. They are used especially in nuclear power stations (the inhabitants of South Moravia may be endangered by the Dukovany Nuclear Power Station. It is located in the Region of Vysocina, however, its impact may affect even the area of South Moravian Region).  Since the people living near the Dukovany Nuclear Power Station have been instructed in what to do in case of an accident, this danger will not be dealt with further on.

Ammonia is an irritating and caustic substance. You will recognize its leakage for its typical acrid odour. It irritates your eyes, mucosa, airways, lungs, and skin very strong. Its high concentration may cause swelling of your lungs and asphyxia.

Use of ammonia:

Ammonia, among others, is used as a frigorific media at old types of ice hockey arenas, next in cooling chambers, and in the food industry.

Chlorine is an intensively irritating substance of yellow-and-green colour of the typical sharply acrid odour. It acts suffocatingly. It especially irritates your airways (causes irritating cough), eyes, and skin. Its higher concentration may cause lungs swelling or pneumonia.

Use of chlorine:

Among others, chlorine is used as a water treatment disinfectant. You can notice it at outdoor pools, swimming pools, aqua parks, water treatment plants, and suchlike.

First aid for exposure to ammonia or chlorine:

  • move the victim to fresh air
  • flush affected eyes with flowing lukewarm water
  • remove caked clothes
  • embrocate affected area properly with water
  • keep the affected person warm and calm
  • if any problems appear, call 112 - the emergency line

What to do - examples of different situations

Case 1: Natural gas leakage

If you can smell gas in your house or nearby, or if you find a defect on the gas equipment, follow the next instructions:

  • put out all flames immediately
  • open all windows and doors and air out properly
  • turn off all gas valves, or even the main gas valve
  • do not use open fire (matches, lighters, candles, and suchlike)
  • do not smoke
  • do not use electrical appliances and do not handle them
  • do not use electric doorbells and do not make phone calls
  • do not panic, warn other housemates and leave the house calmly, and help the disabled ones
  • report it to the emergency and breakdown service of your natural gas provider (make your phone calls out of the house affected by gas leakage)
  • call this number: 1239 (it is the common number for the whole CR operation 24 hours a day and night)

Case 2: Ammonia leakage at ice hockey arena or chlorine leakage at outdoor swimming pool

If you are at ice hockey arena and smell typical odour of ammonia or chlorine at outdoor pool, follow the next steps:

  • try to hold your breath as long as possible
  • protect your airways (cover your nose and mouth with a handkerchief, towel, scarf, sweatshirt, and suchlike; if possible, wet the fabric with water)
  • stay calm and leave the building following the exit signs and instructions given by people in charge or by the rescue team
  • help also the disabled ones
  • if necessary, give first aid (see above)
  • call the emergency line 112

Case 3: DC leakage as a result of an accident in the chemical industry

Buildings where dangerous chemicals are manipulated make high danger for its surrounding in case of accident. We advise people living close to such buildings to learn what to do in case of a serious accident (depending on the type of a dangerous chemical in the building). If you do not know if such building is located close to your place of living, get information from your local/city authority.

What are the basic principles? Hide in the nearest building as quickly as possible, then make the same steps as in the chapter Improvised shelter - where and how to hide in case of danger.

Mind protecting your airways (your nose and mouth) while escaping from the contaminated area.

You will possibly have to be evacuated from the endangered area; therefore use means of improvised protection (see How to protect yourself in contaminated environment). If long lasting evacuation is expected, mind packing your evacuation luggage.

Case 4: DC leakage during transport

Every vehicle transporting DC must always be labeled properly with an orange reflective sign divided into two parts (Kemler code at the top - stating how dangerous the chemical is, UN code at the bottom -  4 figure number, which is assigned to each transported chemical).

If there is an accident of a vehicle with such a sign, move away from the place of accident immediately in the direction which is perpendicular to the direction of the wind and hide in the nearest building. Next, follow the steps mentioned in the chapter "Improvised shelter - where and how to hide in case of danger.

Call the emergency line 112. If you call the emergency line, mind reporting the numbers from the orange sign (however, mind your own safety and call from the safe distance from the place of accident).

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