Dealing With an Emergency

Emergency Procedures

  • I. Medical Emergencies
  • II. Fire Emergencies
  • III. Chemical Spills/Release
  • IV. Follow-Up Procedure


  • Remain calm.
  • Initiate lifesaving measures as needed.
  • Summon medical help.
  • Do not move any injured person unless absolutely necessary.
  • Keep the injured person warm.

In all cases of a medical emergency or injury, it is advised that the victim seek medical attention from the campus Student Health Care Center, Shands Hospital Emergency Room or the emergency care provider in your area. Escort the victim to the facility; do not let them go alone.

1.1. First Aid

Provide on-site first aid treatment to stop bleeding, cool burns or in the event of chemical splash, by flushing with water at a safety shower or eyewash. Remove any jewelry in the affected area. If a delayed action of the chemical splash is possible (e.g. phenol, hydrofluoric acid, methyl and ethyl bromides) obtain medical attention promptly.

1.2. Chemical Splashes

1) Over a large area of the body – Immediately flood the exposed areas with water for at least 15 minutes; resume if pain returns. Quickly remove all contaminated clothing while under the safety shower. Wash off chemicals by using a mild detergent soap and water; do not use neutralizing chemicals or salves. Seek medical attention.

2) On a confined area of the skin – Immediately flush with cold water for at least 15 minutes and wash by using a mild detergent or soap and water. Seek medical attention.

3) Eyes -Immediately wash the eye and inner surface of the eyelid with copious amounts of water for 15 minutes. Check for and remove any contact lenses, if possible, without causing further injury. Hold the eye open to wash thoroughly behind the eyelids. Have injured worker move eye side-to-side and up and down during rinsing. Obtain medical attention immediately after rinsing.

4) Hydrofluoric burns – the area should be rinsed immediately with running water for 2-5 minutes. A calcium gluconate compound must be applied to the area. Seek medical treatment immediately.

5) Phenol burns – Phenol has the ability to penetrate the skin causing severe burns. It will anesthetize the area so little or no pain may be felt. In case of exposure, flush with water. Seek medical attention immediately. Substances such as polyethylene glycol may be used to neutralize and treat the burn in the hospital.

6) Cryogen or dry ice burns (frostbite) – Flood or soak with tepid water-do not use hot water. Seek medical attention.

7) Contaminated clothing should be disposed of.

1.3. Ingestion of a toxin

Dilute the poison by having the victim drink large amounts of water (do not give liquids to an unconscious or convulsing victim). Attempt to learn what the ingested substance was. Obtain medical treatment immediately. Save the label or container for transportation with the victim to the medical facility.

1.4. Inhalation of Chemical Fumes

Take the individual to fresh air, seek medical assistance immediately, and provide artificial respiration or CPR as needed.


If clothing is on fire, help the individual to the floor and roll him/her around to smother the flames. If a safety shower is immediately available, douse the person with water to cool the skin. Seek immediate medical attention.

In case of a fire emergency- remember the acronym R*A*C*E

  • R- Rescue- Without entering a hazardous situation or area, rescue and remove all individuals from the area.
  • A- Alarm- Activate alarms/alert occupants in the building
  • C- Confine- all doors, windows and access to the affected area must be closed to confine spread of the fire and smoke. All access must then be restricted to emergency response personnel only.
  • E- Evacuate – evacuate the area to allow the emergency response personnel to fight the fire. Report to the assigned rally point for a head count.


  • E- Extinguish – attempt to extinguish the fire only if all of the following criteria can or have been met:
    1. Both the 911 response and building alarm have been activated.
    2. Training has been received on how to use a fire extinguisher.
    3. The proper extinguisher is available.
    4. The fire has not spread from its point of origin.
    5. The fire is still small enough to be handled by the available fire extinguisher.
    6. The fire can be fought with your back to the exit to ensure there is a means of escape in the event that the attempt to extinguish the fire fails.
    7. If the fire is not extinguished after using one fire extinguisher, close all doors and leave the building.


Laboratory staff members should clean up only small incidental spills that constitute a minimum hazard. Large chemical spills will be handled by EH&S. All lab staff should become aware of procedures to follow and precautions to take for the chemicals they are using.

3.1. Incidental Chemical Spills

  1. Alert personnel in the immediate area.
  2. Avoid breathing vapors and try to determine what has spilled.
  3. Turn off ignition sources in the immediate area.
  4. If someone has been splashed with chemical, immediately flush the affected area with copious amount of water for at least 15 minutes (see Section III.E). Guidelines for personal injury/exposure incidents are at
  5. Wear protective equipment including safety goggles, disposable gloves, shoe covers, and a long-sleeve lab coat.
  6. Use a commercial kit or the materials discussed in Section III.B to pick-up spilled materials. Confine the spill to a small area by diking the perimeter of the spill first, continuing towards the center.
  7. Place the used absorbent in a plastic bag or bucket and label it with a Hazardous Waste label. Include it in the next hazardous waste pickup.
  8. Clean area with water.
  9. For mercury spills see special procedures:
  10. For acids or base spills: Neutralizing these spills may release hazardous fumes. If you are unsure of the resulting reaction, use an inert absorbent.
  11. For alkali metals: smother the spill with a special Class D, dry powder extinguisher.

3.2. Large Chemical Spill/Release

  1. Avoid breathing vapors.
  2. Quickly identify the spilled material if it can be done safety.
  3. If the spill involves a flammable liquid, turn off all ignition sources, if it can be done safely.
  4. Immediately evacuate the area, closing all doors.
  5. If someone has been splashed with the chemical, immediately flush the affected area with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes (see Section III.E). Guidelines for personal injury/exposure incidents are at
  6. Keep all personnel away from the spill area until EH&S/Emergency personnel arrive to evaluate and control the situation. Place a sign at all doors to the spill location advising personnel not to enter the room.
  7. Personnel most knowledgeable about the spilled material should be available to provide information to EH&S/Emergency personnel.

3.3. Emergency Procedures

Immediately request emergency response assistance through the University Police Department under any one of the following circumstances:

  1. The release requires immediate attention because of imminent danger;
  2. The release requires evacuation/control of employees beyond the immediate spill area (e.g. any toxic material spill in a hallway or other public area);
  3. The release poses a serious threat of fire or explosion;
  4. The release may cause high levels of exposure to toxic substances that are uncontained;
  5. The situation is unclear or important information is lacking.

If the release does not meet any of the criteria describe above, yet exceeds the scope of incidental release, call EH&S at 392-8400 or 392-1591 for assistance.

3.4. Exposure Monitoring

Personnel monitoring will be performed if there is reason to believe that the exposure level of any chemical may exceed the action level, the Ceiling level, or the Permissible Exposure Limit (PEL). Monitoring will be performed by EH&S staff or a designee approved by EH&S. Results of the monitoring will be discussed with the affected employee(s).


4.1. Accident Reports

In the event of a laboratory accident, the laboratory supervisor must complete an “Occupational Injury Investigation Report” and a First Report of Injury or Illness form with the assistance of the injured employee. Report an Employee Injury/Incident for Investigation

Once completed, the report should be forwarded to the Workers’ Compensation Office.

4.2. Follow-up Investigations

EH&S will perform follow-up investigations for all exposures and injuries. Staff will be interviewed to ascertain the circumstances involved with the incident.

* Information taken from the following University of Florida, EH&S Lab Safety Manual