Although the development, production, stockpiling, and use of chemical weapons are prohibited by the UN Convention, the Russian occupiers may violate these obligations and use prohibited substances against both the military and the civilian population. Here are some suggestions on how to detect the use of chemical weapons, prevent injury and provide first aid.
Official Reports of a Chemical Attack
Chemical weapons are extremely toxic but their use cannot always be determined quickly. That is why it is important to follow the reports from official sources and strictly follow the instructions they provide. Such messages should include:
announcements of signs of use of chemical weapons;
the main features of the detected chemicals;
the region where they have been deployed;
recommendations to prevent injury and primary care;
ways for victims to receive help and emergency numbers;
instructions for people who need evacuation from the affected area;
Generic chemical alert reports are common for all categories of chemicals. Once the use of a specific chemical weapon has been confirmed, official announcements and instructions will be detailed.
Signs of chemical weapons use
If you are in a combat zone, pay attention to the following external signs of the use of chemical weapons:
two or more people became incapacitated for unknown reasons,
unknown liquids, powders, or vapors were found,
incomprehensible smells or tastes are felt,
unknown and/or unattended materials, devices, or equipment were found,
there is massive rapid death of small animals (birds, insects),
there is a mass manifestation of physical symptoms of chemical damage (read more about physical symptoms below).
Any of these signs can be an indicator of the use of chemical weapons. The presence of several symptoms at the same time indicates an increased likelihood that the incident is related to the use of chemicals. Immediately report the presence of such signs to the emergency services number – call 112 (the dispatcher will relay the call to the team of the required service)
Attention! If you suspect the use of chemical weapons, respond appropriately to reduce the potential harm to yourself and others. Do not put yourself in danger!
Priority actions in the area of chemical contamination
What to do if you find yourself near a chemically affected zone.
Leave the affected area. The less time you are in contact with chemicals and the farther you are from the epicenter of the contamination, the less you will be affected by the contamination.
Try to move fast, but do not run. Your breathing should be calm and slow to inhale as little poison as possible.
Find a shelter nearby. If possible, return to your home.
If you are indoors during a chemical alarm:
If possible, go upstairs and find a room with as few windows and doors as possible. Chemicals are usually heavier than air, so the upper levels of homes will be cleaner.
Reduce the flow of air from the outside. Close windows, doors, vents, and anything else that helps air enter the room from the outside.
Do not eat or drink anything that may be exposed to chemicals.
Turn on the news on the radio, television, or the web to receive updated health and safety information. You’ll be notified once it is safe to go outside.
If you are in your car and cannot leave the affected area, minimize the risk of chemical exposure:
Pull to the side of the road so as not to block or obstruct the movement of emergency vehicles.
Turn off the engine and close all vents that draw in air from outside, including the air vents. Starting the engine and driving will draw in outside air into the car and can expose you to chemicals.
To minimize the amount of chemicals you inhale, cover your mouth and nose with a cloth, such as a scarf or a handkerchief.
Listen to further instructions from emergency personnel at the scene or listen to the news on the radio or follow official sources on the Internet.
Symptoms of chemical exposure and priority safety measures
The main physical symptoms of the use of chemical materials:
miosis (excessive narrowing of the pupils),
disorientation and sweating,
twitching and convulsions,
respiratory tract irritation and difficulty breathing,
eye and skin irritation,
nausea and vomiting,
loss of consciousness.
What to do if you have symptoms of chemical damage, or you think you have been in contact with a chemical (for 15 minutes after exposure):
Remove the top layer of your clothing.
If possible, put the clothes in a bag and close the bag. Place this airtight bag in another bag and seal with duct tape. Instructions for disposal or cleaning will be provided later.
If you have signs or symptoms of corrosive or irritating substances – such as redness, itching, and burning of the eyes or skin – rinse them with water.
If the eyes are burning or irritated, rinse them with water for 10-15 minutes. Do not use soap to wash your eyes.
Do not touch other people to avoid the possible spread of the chemical.
Damage caused by a chemical agent cannot be transmitted from person to person. It is not a contagious disease that can be transmitted by coughing or sneezing. However, people can spread the chemical if it gets on their skin, clothes, or hair.
People can also spread the chemical through body fluids. If someone else comes in contact with the chemical in this way, they may be harmed. After people exposed to chemicals take off their outer clothing and wash themselves, most of the chemicals will be removed and the likelihood of them spreading will be greatly reduced.
Evacuation from the area affected by chemical weapons
When evacuating from the area affected by chemical weapons, wear clean, tight clothing that covers all areas of the body as much as possible. If possible, wear goggles, masks, hats, gloves, and a raincoat. If you need to be in the shelter, prepare an emergency supply of water, food, and essentials. Read more about the preparation of your apartment for an emergency here.
Areas affected by chemical weapons can remain dangerous for a long time, from several hours to several months. Do not return to the affected area without the appropriate instructions of the Emergency Services Department and other emergency services.