Chemical accidents, toxic fumes and smoke

Hazardous materials form part of our everyday lives, from industrial chemicals to household detergents; they are substances that pose a potential risk due to their chemical nature.

If you witness a hazardous material accident, remember to call 999 immediately.  Stay away from the incident site to minimise the risk of contamination.  If you think you may have been contaminated, wait for the Emergency Services who will provide decontamination facilities

General advice

  • Go indoors, close all outside doors/windows and stay there until you are advised to leave by the Emergency Services
  • Bring pets indoors.
  • Turn off air conditioning and ventilation fans
  • Close all doors and windows and block obvious vents (remember to unblock before switching equipment on again)
  • Tune into local radio and/or television and listen for local announcements. They will inform you when you can go outside and of other actions you should take
  • Switch off air conditioning, ventilation units and fans - Both inside a building or car
  • Extinguish all naked flames eg pilot lights
  • Cover or put all food in a closed, sealed cupboard or container
  • Have emergency provisions ready
  • Wash and/or peel all fruit and vegetables before eating
  • Get out your home emergency pack
  • Be prepared you may need to be evacuated, get an overnight bag ready and follow the advice of the Emergency Services. If you are evacuated the Council will organise shelter for you
  • Keep telephone calls to a minimum to avoid overloading the system

Do not

  • Do not try to collect your children from school unless told to do so - they will be looked after and the correct action taken
  • Do not go outside until you are told to do so. (With some chemicals everything may appear quite normal and you won't be able to see or smell them)
  • Do not use rainwater - it may look normal but could be dangerous to drink or wash with. Any rainwater stored eg water butts should be discarded
  • Do not use leafy vegetables or difficult to wash produce
  • Do not pet animals that have been outside.
  • Listen for public announcements. They will inform you when you can go outside and of other actions you should take.

Animals and pets

If you need to go back to a restricted area to feed or care for live stock, horses etc contact the police, who will make the necessary arrangements.

Pets should be kept under cover, however do not go looking for your cat or dog if it is out when the emergency is announced - they can be cared for when the emergency is over.

Do not touch any animals that have been outside.


Please keep your telephone free for use by the emergency services, unless the call is absolutely necessary - they might need to contact you to issue instructions.

Listen for public announcements on local radio stations, TV or loudspeakers - you will be told when it is safe to go outside and what other actions to take during the emergency.

Updated: 4 August 2009