- The first priority is human lives. Make sure your employees are alright and their health and safety are secure. If the spill involves ignitable chemicals, make sure all ignition sources are turned off.
- Contain the chemical spill or accident.
- Estimate the amount of spill and determine the Federal Reportable Quantity (RQ) of the chemical that has been spill. The RQ can be found in the List of Lists. This is where preparation comes in handy. If you had reviewed your chemical inventory and determined the appropriate RQ before the spill occurred, you would be in a much better shape.
- Report all spill amounts that exceed the RQ to the National Response Center at 1-800- 424-8802 as soon as possible.
- Check to see if there are any spill reporting requirements mandated by your state agency. Many state agencies require you to report spills that are much below the federal RQ. A list of state reporting requirements can be found here.
- If your spill or chemical release has affected your neighbors in your community, now is the time to be forthright and let your community know what has happened. Do NOT try to stonewall or hide the spills. Your neighbors already know about your spill. So why hide it. Can you imagine how much worse publicity BP would have gotten if it had denied there was an oil spill in the Gulf? They just need to hear from YOU the extent and scope of your accident. Be upfront about it. Don’t try to spin it though some public relations agents. Don’t deny it. If you try to hide it or spin it now, it will only make you look very bad when the truth comes out. And the truth will come out.
- Tell your community the steps you are taking to mitigate the spills and any further steps you plan to take to prevent it from happening again. Your neighbors need to know that you are on top of the situation. They need to hear from you directly. Not from some PR spokesman.
- Keep your community up-to-date on the mitigation measures you are taking.
Many people are under the misconception that if you are open to the public after the spills, it will invite law suits. That’s not true. If you are going to be sued, you are going to be sued whether you are upfront or not. Being evasive and untruthful will only hurt your credibility and your standing in the community.