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Chemical Incidents—Emergency Planning, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. Community Considerations

Issues Relevant to Toxicology

  1. David Russell BSc, MBBCh, MSc, DipMedTox, FRCPath1,
  2. John Simpson MBBS, FFPH Deputy Director of Emergency Response2

Published Online: 15 DEC 2009

DOI: 10.1002/9780470744307.gat124

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

General, Applied and Systems Toxicology

How to Cite

Russell, D. and Simpson, J. 2009. Chemical Incidents—Emergency Planning, Preparedness, Response and Recovery. Community Considerations. General, Applied and Systems Toxicology. .

Author Information

  1. 1

    The University of Wales Institute Cardiff (UWIC), Chemical Hazards and Poisons Division (Cardiff), The Health Protection Agency, Cardiff, Wales, UK

  2. 2

    The Health Protection Agency Centre, Centre for Emergency Preparedness and Response, Salisbury, Wiltshire, UK

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 DEC 2009


Chemicals are an integral part of modern society with large volumes transported and stored to support requirements for a myriad of processes. Chemical incidents are surprisingly common and occasionally large enough to result in large numbers of casualties, such as Bhopal (1984). Other disasters reflect widespread global transportation of chemicals. In addition, in the present climate, deliberate release of chemicals is a concern, with the release of chemicals now used industrially (chlorine and phosgene) resulting in widespread casualties during the First World War. More recently, the nerve agent sarin was released on the Tokyo underground (1995). Therefore emergency planning for chemical incidents must take account of a large number of potential scenarios, deliberate and accidental alike. Planning should be undertaken following a risk assessment process and should focus on residual risk. Planning should be multidisciplinary and produce dovetailed national, regional and local plans, and be sufficiently flexible to cover major and minor incident alike, whilst recognizing the role of the community. Preparedness is closely related and reflects readiness. It has several components including training, detecting and alerting, surveillance, communication, provision of advice and medical/nonmedical equipment as well as pharmaceutical interventions. The response to an incident needs to be rapid, coordinated and efficient, with a rapid risk assessment and the establishment of command and control structures; risk communication is an essential component. Decontamination, first aid and medical treatment of casualties may be necessary, together with evacuation and/or sheltering. Exposure and risk assessment may be further facilitated by environmental and biological sampling; in the longer term, clinical and epidemiological follow up may be needed. Recovery encompasses the economy, the environment and health and may require remediation and rehabilitation.


  • chemical incidents;
  • disasters;
  • deliberate release;
  • risk assessment;
  • planning;
  • integrated emergency management;
  • preparedness;
  • exposure assessment;
  • command and control;
  • risk communication;
  • recovery