Here are 5 things you should know.
1. What to do if you witness or approach a vehicle accident involving hazardous materials (tanker trucks, chemical transports, etc.)
Do you do a lot of driving? Live in a big city with lots of vehicle accidents? Are you someone who would consider helping if you witnessed an accident? You should know what to do if you witness or approach an accident involving hazardous materials.
First, Do not approach: When in doubt, stay far away from the accident, e.g. several hundred feet. If possible, stay upwind. Do not stop your vehicle invisible vapor clouds. If you are in traffic and can’t get away, turn off your a/c, keep your windows rolled up, and don’t open your doors. If you are upwind and can’t move your vehicle, exit the vehicle (if it is safe to do so) and get yourself as far away as possible. Your own safety is the first priority, even if you want to help.
Second, if first responders have not arrived, call the police and be sure to tell them a hazmat transport is involved: Describe anything you see, smell, taste, hear or feel that seems out of the ordinary, e.g. “A tanker truck just overturned in front of me. I smell rotten eggs, and I can see vapor in the air and liquid on the ground.” Follow any instructions they give you.
Third, attempt to identify the hazard present: (If you’re on the phone with police, they will undoubtedly ask if you can see any labels or placards on the truck). Any vehicle carrying large quantities of hazmat will be clearly labeled with placards and numbers. If you google “blue placard 4” or “hazmat 3160,” you can get a lot of helpful information about the material and what hazards it poses.
Also, consider getting the Emergency Response Guidebook, also known as the ERG or the Orange Book. There’s also an app for the ERG now. This book is a quick reference guide to what placards and numbers on tanker trucks and other hazmat transports are carrying and what to do if you encounter an unexpected or potential discharge of hazardous materials. It has a very straightforward quick reference in front to identify the chemical(s) on board. Then you can flip to the page about that chemical for a simple, bulleted list of the associated hazards (explosion, ignition, skin damage, poisoning, etc.), what steps to take (including contacting authorities and other relevant agencies – phone numbers in book), and where you should be to keep yourself safe (stay upwind, stay at least 500 feet away, etc.).
Fourth, if you are determined to act as a first responder while waiting for the authorities, make sure you are following all safety recommendations for the chemical involved: When you enter the area of the accident, spend as little time there as possible. Pay careful attention to any new sensations you feel and don’t ignore them. If you feel light-headed, sick, dizzy, suddenly stop smelling the chemical, feel lung irritation, or get any other sign the chemical is affecting you, leave. Prioritize getting people out of the area if they are able to move with assistance, especially if there’s a risk of ignition, explosion, or poisoning by inhalation. Do not stay in the area of the accident to tend unconscious or seriously injured victims. That is the job of police and EMTs.
If you want an example of how quickly your attempt to help can go horribly wrong, here’s a video of an officer responding to a hazmat accident without taking proper precautions.
Finally, never assume that the threat has passed: Until authorities say as much. For example, you might be hearing gas leaking out of a truck. When the sounds stop and some time passes, you might think the gas has dissipated, but many chemicals are heavier than air and will stay sitting at ground level. Hazardous materials are not things we should make any assumptions about reality. It’s best to treat them all with maximum caution.
2. Walgreens is now selling Narcan kits and they are also available for free from many treatment facilities.
If you have anyone in your life taking prescribed or non-prescribed opiates, please have a Narcan kit with you, even if they don’t seem at risk. Narcan can immediately reverse an opiate overdose and saves countless lives. It is easy to administer and has no effect if the person has not used opiates so no risk in giving if unsure the person is overdosing.
3. Walk away from an escalator at (at least) the same speed it’s traveling to avoid passenger pileups.
The escalator is delivering people just behind you who will all crash into each other if you walk away at a leisurely pace. Clear the way first, then walk as slow as you want.
4. The Drug Enforcement Agency will take your expired/unused prescription drugs on 28 October 2017.
2017-10-28 is the Drug Enforcement Agency’s 14th National Prescription Drug Take Back Day: https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_disposal/takeback/
If you have prescription drugs you don’t want/need, instead of polluting the water supply by flushing them down the toilet, you can give them to the government for safe, responsible, legal disposal.
5. You may need to wash your recyclables.
For the US, lots of localities require you to wash some/all of your recyclables before throwing them out. If you don’t then the unwashed items will end up in the regular trash.