Safety Guide | Returning home after a chemical fire
Be sure to remove your shoes before entering the house. This way you don’t follow the particles into your home after a chemical fire.
WINSTON-SALEM, NC — Coming home after a chemical fire can be scary to navigate while making sure you and your family stay safe.
Be sure to remove your shoes before entering the house. This way you don’t follow the particles around your house. You’ll also want to clean up your yard play areas and other objects covered in ash or debris while wearing respiratory protection. Be sure to clean your air conditioner filter and wear a mask.
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Here are some other things you will need to do with the following information provided by the WCHD.
5 key points
- Take photos to document the condition of your property for insurance claims.
- Take off your shoes so you don’t leave traces of particles in your home.
- When performing activities that may disturb ash or debris, wear respiratory protection.
- People with respiratory conditions such as asthma, COPD, and heart disease may need to take extra precautions as exposure to airborne ash can trigger respiratory problems.
- Wash away any ash that comes in contact with your skin, eyes or mouth as soon as possible.
- Do not allow children to play in or with objects covered in ash or debris.
- When playing outside or working in the yard, avoid hand-to-mouth contact and wash your hands when you come inside.
- When mowing, wear respiratory protection.
- Clean toys, swings, patio furniture, barbecues and swimming pools before use.
Garden produce is safe to eat after being thoroughly washed and rinsed. Leafy vegetables can be soaked in a 10% vinegar solution to remove soil particles from produce.
- Keep cats indoors until cleaning is complete.
- Dogs must be leashed when outdoors unless there is no ash or soot in the area.
- Do not let pets drink water from puddles, or drink water or eat food that was outside when the incident occurred.
- If dogs or cats have ashes on their paws or body, wash them off promptly.
- If pet toys were outside, wash them before using them.
Clean or replace your air conditioner filter to make sure it’s working efficiently. When cleaning the filters, wear a mask and gloves.
Turn on your system’s “fan” or “recirculation” option to circulate the air in your home through the filter. If you have a window air conditioner, close the outside air shutter. Clean or replace your air conditioner filter to make sure it’s working efficiently.
- There is no problem with drinking water from municipal water sources
Protect yourself while cleaning
- Wear protective clothing when cleaning surfaces that may contain soot deposited by fire. This includes long-sleeved shirts, long pants, gloves, and a mask to protect against inhaling hazardous particles.
- When wearing a mask, a disposable mask with an N-95 rating or better is recommended during cleanup to avoid breathing in ash and other airborne particles. These can be purchased from a DIY or hardware store, but should fit snugly, with no gaps around the edges, for protection. An ill-fitting mask is equivalent to not wearing a mask at all. Follow package label instructions for proper use.
- Wear safety glasses (not safety goggles) if cleanup activities may cause ash to be released into the air.
- Wash your hands regularly with soap and warm water and shower regularly throughout the day when cleaning areas with ashes.
- If cleaning will be done in high traffic outdoor areas, hose down all visible ash with a garden hose. Do not use leaf blowers or other methods that could cause ash or debris to be suspended in the air.
- Clean interior floors and upholstery with high-efficiency particulate vacuums (HEPA filter). Common household vacuum cleaners may not filter small particles, but rather throw them into the air where they can be inhaled.
- Hard surfaces (tiles, counters) can be wiped down with soapy water and rinsed. Uncovered kitchen items (pots, pans, cutlery) should be washed in soapy water or put in the dishwasher.
- For cleaning pools, removing/skimming debris, recirculating through filters and performing routine pool maintenance (pH levels, etc.).
- Individuals should remove large visible particle debris from flowerbeds using gloves or a shovel and isolate trash in a separate container.
- Discard any food that cannot be thoroughly washed before consuming. Empty and clean pet food and water bowls.