Preparing and preventing chemical emergencies takes research and planning. It is imperative to have an emergency action plan for the risk of chemical disaster. Risk management means to simply assess risk exposure and how best to handle it. The documentation about how to manage risk is called a risk management plan.
Risk Management Plans (RMPs)
How do you prepare a risk management plan when the risk is chemical exposure, whether accidental or as part of a terror attack?
First, you have to define the type of risk before you can evaluate that risk. Second, you have to assess the risk for exposure. Third, you have to have an action plan in place that states exactly what you must do to manage that risk to minimize exposure, injury, and ultimately medical bills.
For risks that are likely to happen outside the home, those risk managements plans tend to be in place by authorities. You will be notified if a chemical disaster should occur. Within your home, how you respond to a chemical disaster is paramount to surviving it with little or no exposure. You have the right to know when a chemical emergency or attack occurs, how to plan for it, and how to respond to it.
Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know-Act
The EPCRA, or Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, grew out of a grassroots movement by citizens on the local and state levels to mandate that businesses provide public disclosure of hazardous chemicals and other materials that could pose a danger to the public. Public disclosure means that companies must disclose what chemicals they use, store and dispose of in the course of their facility usage. This aids in preparation of risk management plans for local communities and consumers.
Laws and Regulations
Industrial chemicals are subject to laws and regulations to minimize public exposure and industry usage. Whether it is a dry-cleaner's solvent, paint thinner at the local hardware store, or nitrous gas used by factories or dental offices. Each chemical is required to have within close proximity, a Material Safety Data Sheet or MSDS that details the composition of the chemical and how to proceed safely if exposed to it. Chemical danger posed by terrorist attack such as the use of nerve agents would be under the jurisdiction of the first responders and local, state, and national government entities.
Public disclosure of chemicals that pose danger to the public would have little meaning without laws to regulate how companies and other entities should proceed to report those disclosures. The Clean Air Act of 1970 gave state and federal agencies the means to monitor, assess, and reprimand those out of compliance. The Environmental Protection Agency grew out of this Act and continues today as the go-to resource for both U.S. citizens and businesses alike for information and reporting measures. Amendments were added in 1977 and 1990 to address such concerns as air quality and acid rain.
There are currently over 248,000 regulated chemicals worldwide and that list grows by around fifty each week.
- Regulated Chemical Databases
- Plain English Guide to the Clean Air Act
- Law and Regulation Documents
- Legal Advice
- Background on Chemical Terrorism (pdf)
- The Clean Air Act and Climate Change
Preventing Chemical Accidents
Preventing chemical accidents is simple. Follow the instructions regarding the chemical whether in industry or at home. Should a chemical risk occur outside your home, your local Emergency Alert System or EAS will keep you informed by television or radio. Following directions is the surest way to keep you and your family safe from chemical spills and other accidents.
Types of alerts that may present themselves are pesticide exposure, power outages, toxic releases from tanker accidents or factories, and terror attacks.
The EPA has many resources to help you find out your risk of chemical exposure in your community. From superfund sites to pathogen-infested lakes, to past chemical emergencies in your community, usually all you have to do is plug in your zip code and a report will advise and help you with preparing a risk management plan for your family.