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Protective Actions

Protective Actions are those steps taken to preserve the health and safety of emergency responders and the public during an incident involving releases of dangerous goods. Table 1 - Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances (green-bordered pages) predicts the size of downwind areas which could be affected by a cloud of toxic gas. People in this area should be evacuated and/or sheltered in-place inside buildings.

Isolate Hazard Area and Deny Entry means to keep everybody away from the area if they are not directly involved in emergency response operations. Unprotected emergency responders should not be allowed to enter the isolation zone. This "isolation" task is done first to establish control over the area of operations. This is the first step for any protective actions that may follow. See Table 1 - Initial Isolation and Protective Action Distances (green-bordered pages) for more detailed information on specific materials.

Evacuate means to move all people from a threatened area to a safer place. To perform an evacuation, there must be enough time for people to be warned, to get ready, and to leave an area. If there is enough time, evacuation is the best protective action. Begin evacuating people nearby and those outdoors in direct view of the scene. When additional help arrives, expand the area to be evacuated downwind and crosswind to at least the extent recommended in this guidebook. Even after people move to the distances recommended, they may not be completely safe from harm. They should not be permitted to congregate at such distances. Send evacuees to a definite place, by a specific route, far enough away so they will not have to be moved again if the wind shifts.

Shelter In-Place means people should seek shelter inside a building and remain inside until the danger passes. Sheltering in-place is used when evacuating the public would cause greater risk than staying where they are, or when an evacuation cannot be performed. Direct the people inside to close all doors and windows and to shut off all ventilating, heating and cooling systems. In-place protection (shelter in-place) may not be the best option if (a) the vapors are flammable; (b) if it will take a long time for the gas to clear the area; or (c) if buildings cannot be closed tightly. Vehicles can offer some protection for a short period if the windows are closed and the ventilating systems are shut off. Vehicles are not as effective as buildings for in-place protection.

It is vital to maintain communications with competent persons inside the building so that they are advised about changing conditions. Persons protected-in-place should be warned to stay far from windows because of the danger from glass and projected metal fragments in a fire and/or explosion.

Every dangerous goods incident is different. Each will have special problems and concerns. Action to protect the public must be selected carefully. These pages can help with initial decisions on how to protect the public. Officials must continue to gather information and monitor the situation until the threat is removed.

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