Protecting Yourself in a Chemical Emergency

Although major accidents involving hazardous chemicals occur infrequently, they do happen. They can happen almost any place... at home and in the community. The effects of a chemical release into the community can be devastating and sudden. Knowing what to expect and the steps to take in an emergency is the key to avoiding potentially serious injury.


In Dane County, you will be warned of a chemical emergency through the same warning system used to provide you with information about severe weather. This may be through:

Under special circumstances, emergency personnel may also provide door-to-door warning in your neighborhood.

For more information see the Emergency Warning System website.


If you are notified of an emergency - remain calm. Immediately turn on a radio or television for information or further instructions. You will be told:

Do not use your telephone to call 9-1-1, unless you have a personal emergency. Unnecessary calls may tie up phone lines and prevent essential calls from getting through.

Do not evacuate unless you are told to do so. Attempting to leave the area could put you at higher risk of exposure to the released chemical. You may also interfere with emergency operations at the scene of the incident.


When warned of a chemical emergency, one of the instructions that you may be given is to Shelter-in-Place. This is a precaution intended to keep you and your family safe while remaining in your home. In many situations, it is better to remain indoors than to risk exposure by attempting to evacuate. Your home, workplace, or school will provide a good barrier against airborne chemical contaminants if the building ventilation is properly shut-down. Shelter-in-Place is a short-term precaution and will generally last no more than a couple of hours. If advised to Shelter-in-Place, you should:


In some situations, you may be advised to evacuate. Emergency response personnel may consider ordering evacuation measures when:

More Information

You have the right to know about the chemicals in your community. You have the right to make your own informed decisions as to whether these chemicals are a threat to your health or environment. The more each of us learns about, understands, and participates in managing chemical hazards, the safer our communities will be for everyone. If you would like more about any of these programs or would like to learn more about the possible chemical risks to you or your community, please contact Dane County Emergency Management at 608-266-4330 or e-mail