We use hazardous materials in our homes and businesses every day. Small spills occasionally occur, but these incidents generally cause the public little difficulty other than traffic delays. In the event of a major spill authorities will instruct you on the best course of action; however, you should heed the precautions listed below.
For domestic incidents, you can consult the Poison Control hotline at 1-212-POISONS (1-212-764-7667), visit NYC's Poison Control Center, contact 311 (212-639-9675 for Video Relay Service, or TTY: 212-504-4115).
Know What to Do
Stay upwind of the material if possible.
Seek medical attention as soon as possible if needed.
If there's an event indoors, try to get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area. Otherwise, it may be better to move as far away from the event as possible and shelter in place.
If exposed, remove outer layer of clothes, separate yourself from them, and wash yourself.
In some circumstances, after being exposed to hazardous materials, it may be necessary to be "decontaminated." Specially trained emergency personnel will perform decontamination procedures, which may include the removal of personal items and cleansing of exposed areas of the body. They will provide for medical attention if necessary.
Small amounts of radiation are considered safe. In the unlikely event that New York City became exposed to unsafe levels of radiation, there are steps you can take to reduce your exposure:
If you are outside, get inside. Remove all clothing and wash thoroughly. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, removing clothing can eliminate up to 90% of radioactive contamination.
If there's an event indoors, try to get out of the building without passing through the contaminated area. If you cannot escape, it may be better to move as far away from the event as possible and shelter in place.
In the unlikely event of radiation exposure, the City may distribute potassium iodide (known as KI). This is a kind of salt that can prevent damage to your thyroid gland only if you are exposed to radioactive iodine. It will not help you in other radioactive environments. KI is generally only recommended for children, adolescents, pregnant women and others with growing thyroids. Only one dosage should be taken every 24 hours.
Know What to Do
Time. Radioactive materials become less radioactive over time. Stay inside until authorities alert you the threat has passed.
Distance. The greater the distance between you and the source of the radiation the better. Authorities may call for an evacuation of people from areas close to the release.
Shielding. Put as much heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation as possible. Authorities may advise you to stay indoors or underground for this reason. Close and seal your windows and turn off any ventilation.