Chemical Emergency Resources for the Community

Most of us are familiar with the adage that knowledge is power, but few give credence to the phrase during their day… until it’s too late. Few of us are aware of the chemical hazards present in our communities or those that we encounter on the road. So, stop yourself for a minute and ask, “What would you do in case of a chemical emergency?”

The truth is most people would not know where to start in case of a chemical incident. However, the recent Hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, only further highlight the need for public awareness and participation in community chemical safety. During extreme weather phenomena, first responders may not be able to adequately respond to every emergency. Basic knowledge and awareness during a chemical emergency can therefore be the difference between a safe escape and injury or death.

Chemical Incident 101

In case of a chemical incident nearby or in a surrounding community, identifying the wind direction, chemical incident location, and the chemical involved is crucial to dealing with the incident safely. Regardless if you are dealing with a chemical leak that’s pooling, a gas cloud dispersion, or a chemical fire, taking notice of the wind direction is the first thing you should do. That’s because in any chemical emergency, if you know nothing else, the safest thing to do is to move upwind and crosswind to the direction of the current wind flow.

If the chemical incident occurs at a local facility, with a little research, you can identify the most harmful chemicals that you should be worried about. You can always check the American Institute of Chemical Engineers’ newsfeed for chemical accidents, a company website, or your local news for additional details on the accident. Identifying the location of the chemical incident as well as the chemical species involved, provides you with the crucial information you need to make safer decisions in real time.

Chemical Emergency Resources

Some basic awareness and knowledge about chemicals can greatly increase your chances of surviving a chemical emergency unscathed. There are plenty of resources available to communities, like the Toxic Release Inventory National Analysis report’s interactive map, that allow you to better equip yourself individually and as a community. This map allows individuals to quickly identify which facilities are located in their state, county, or zip code and what chemicals they have onsite as well as any toxic release events. Knowing what kind of chemical pose a potential risk and where they are located can go a long way in keeping you and your loved ones safe.

A great additional resource for community chemical safety is the Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) which plan, review, and distribute chemical emergency response plans to the residents. More information on your local chemical incident response resources is available by contacting your State Emergency Response Commission (SERC). There are also guides published by the EPA and other government agencies that describe how to better prepare your community for a chemical emergency. For those that do not mind a little bit of research the CDC offers a vast amount of literature on chemical incidents for the general public.

Emergency Response Guide

Though we’ve covered plenty of community resources to help you prepare for a chemical emergency encountering a chemical incident away from home or on the road requires a different approach. Within the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) published an Emergency Response Guidebook (ERG) intended to be used by first responders during HazMat accidents. The 2016 ERG contains an indexed list of chemicals and materials, the potential hazards they pose, and the recommended safety precautions. The guide is available for download at the here; it can also be accessed through the SAFER Mobile Response App (SMR), which is available for download on iOS and Android devices. Printed copies can be obtained online for nominal costs at various online sources.

The 2016 ERG is meant for HazMat first responders dealing with transportation accidents involving hazardous or toxic materials, but it can be of use to everyone no matter where disaster strikes. The ERG can quickly help you identify the immediate isolation distance in all directions and then help determine the protective distances to be set downwind. With whatever little information you can discern, either through media or the hazard placards on the transport vehicle, you can make smarter decisions faster and with confidence.

Leveraging Technology During Chemical Emergencies

Anyone with the SAFER Mobile Response App on their phone or tablet can visualize the ERG recommendations over Google Maps, including live traffic and Points-of-Interest.

The likelihood of everyone carrying a small orange book around in case of a chemical emergency seems far fetched, and it is. Outside of those transporting hazardous materials and those responding to HazMat incidents, always lugging a book around does not make practical sense. That is why SAFER Systems offers SAFER Mobile Response, a free application available on iOS and Android phones and tablets, that offers the 2016 Emergency Response Guidebook on an intuitive user interface. The application integrates the ERG with additional tools, providing not just a reference but an interactive solution to mitigating chemical incidents. Users are able to visualize the ERG isolation and protective action distances over Google Maps® with the additional features of live traffic and Points of Interest being available. Additional IED features are available to verified Law Enforcement or Emergency Personnel. For more information, email us at

In minutes, anyone with basic information about the chemical incident can visualize the event and take appropriate action. The SMR App connects to various internet weather sources, so the event wizard can display the initial isolation and the protective action distances all in the palm of your hand. The share features mean you can update those close by, and without the ERG book or app, about the general status of the chemical emergency. The SMR App is the perfect blend of preparation and practicality, download our product datasheet to learn more!

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