Emergency Numbers:

Emergency Response

Using signage and regular safety lectures, all users of a building must know the actions they need to perform if they stumble across an emergency. The response must be contingent on the severity of the emergency. For e.g. smaller fires may require use of fire extinguisher, while gas leaks need a global alarm.

Emergency evacuation

All buildings are required to have an emergency evacuation plan that allows all occupants to exit the building, establishes chain of command, demarcates responsibilities, and establishes rules of liaising with external emergency services. The primary responsibility of defining the fire exit plan rests with the Safety Champion of the department that administers the building. The safety champion can take the help from OLSEH to formulate the plan. The emergency plan must follow the following guidelines:


  1. All buildings must have a method to announce a global emergency that mandates evacuation. This can be a simple a public address system or a manual/automatic fire alarm.
  2. All buildings must designate a network of emergency exits, and assembly points such that all occupants of a lab can exit the building and reach the safe assembly point within 2 minutes of a global alarm.
  3. The number of these exits and assembly points depends on the size and layout of the building.
  4. The location of emergency exits and assembly points must be clearly shown on signage posted at strategic locations, e.g. corridors, break-out spaces, lecture halls, assembly points, etc.
  5. Assembly points are where occupants assemble during the emergency. Hence the location of these assembly points must be chosen well. The assembly points must be far from the hazards, e.g. electrical yards, gas cylinders, chemical storage, etc. Assembly points cannot be in the path of emergency vehicles.
  6. All labs must identify the route to the nearest emergency exit from each lab (“emergency escape route”). This route must be clearly posted inside each lab. See example.
  7. The emergency escape routes cannot include elevators. Only stairs can be used during emergencies.
  8. During emergency, emergency vehicles such as ambulance and fire trucks must be able to reach the premises. This requires a suitably wide thoroughfare that is always free of obstruction (i.e. no parked vehicles or bikes or storage). Ideally, the emergency vehicles should have 360° access to the building.
  9. None of the doors that are part of the emergency evacuation strategy can ever be blocked or physically locked. They can only be latched or electronically locked, such that they can be opened in an emergency by anyone.

Action on hearing a global alarm

All users of a building must know the actions they need to perform if they hear the global evacuation alarm. For most of the occupants, this response will be an evacuation to an assembly point. Some people might have additional responsibilities, e.g. members of the emergency response team (ERT)

Emergency response team (ERT)

ERT is group with the primary responsibility to respond to an emergency. The roles/responsibilities may change with department and associated hazards. At its very basic, ERT is in-charge of ascertaining the validity of the emergency, calling external emergency vehicles, managing the assembly points, liaising with institute and external safety/security teams, and issuing the “all-clear”.

  1. ERT must be a statutory body in a department, composed of faculty and permanent staff. A part of ERT must be “on-call” 24×7. The composition of ERT must be communicated to the OLSEH by the department Chair. The ERT is assumed to be technically familiar with all the hazards in a department. This might require the ERT to conduct periodic audits in their respective departments.
  2. Some multi-storied building may need additional floor-warden who ensures that evacuation orders are being followed in a certain section of the building.
  3. Each assembly points must have a designated leader who is in-charge of taking attendance or headcount. This and any pertinent information given by the evacuating public can be escalated to the ERT.
  4. ERT is the only one who can issue an “all-clear” after a evacuation. No can enter the building until ERT has issued the all-clear.
  5. ERT is the primary contact for institute and external agencies involved in an emergency. ERT is responsible for calling emergency vehicles (or setup a structure such that this happens automatically). Since they are the only people familiar with all the hazards in a department, the ERT is also expected to liaison with the agencies.

Chemical Spill Response

Based on the chemicals stored and used in the laboratory, lab in charges must anticipate the types of spills that can occur in their respective laboratories. It is their responsibility to obtain the necessary equipment (spill kits, personal protective equipment, and disinfection materials if biological materials are present in the laboratory) to respond to a spill prior to it happening. 

  1. If the spill is too large, highly toxic, flammable, aggressive, or just scary, please call emergency response, press global alarm and evacuate. The following compounds are considered very hazardous and should not be cleaned by users: aromatic amines, hydrazine, bromine, organic halides, hexamethylphosphoramide (HMPA), carbon disulfide, cyanides, ethers, nitro compounds and nitriles. Users must also not try to contain gas leaks of flammable, toxic or pyrophoric gases.
  2. If and only if you can do so safety, attend to injured or exposed personnel and remove them from exposure.
  3. Alert people in the laboratory to evacuate. Alert people in the immediate area of the spill and make sure that you are aware of the hazards associated with the material spilled. If the spilled material is flammable, turn off ignition and heat sources.
  4. Clean up the spill. Less experienced user should only clean up minor spills (<50 ml). For larger spills, call help of staff or experienced users.
    1. Acids and bases typically need neutralization kits.
    2. In case of a mercury spill use mechanical means or a portable pipette vacuum, do not use house vacuum or a vacuum cleaner.  Cover small droplets in inaccessible areas with powdered sulfur.  Place the residue in a labeled container and dispose it separately.
    3. To cleanup alkali metal spills, smother with anhydrous sodium carbonate, calcium carbonate, powdered graphite or sand.
  5. While cleaning up the spill, have adequate ventilation (open windows, fume hoods on) and proper protective equipment (minimum: gloves, splash goggles, and apron/lab-coat).

Fire Response

  1. If you see fire, evaluate if you are in immediate  danger. If you are, raise alarm and evacuate
  2. If the fire is small, try to contain the fire using a fire extinguisher. If you can’t, call BMS. The emergency numbers must be near the landline. Give your name, location, nature of the emergency and telephone number.
    1. Once the fire is contained, call the lab in charge and the faculty in charge.
    2. Try to assist any injured people around you. See section below on first aid.
  3. If you hear the fire alarm, immediately evacuate.
  4. During evacuation:
    1. If confronted with smoke, keep near the floor. Smoke, heat and toxic gases will normally rise to the ceiling.
    2. Do not use elevators, as they might not work during emergency.
    3. Using the nearest emergency exit, exit the building.
    4. Go to the designated safe assembly pointe.
    5. From the assembly point call the lab in charge and the faculty in charge.
    6. Stay at assembly points, until an “all-clear” is issued by the emergency response team.
  5. Inform emergency response team of any hazadous conditions (presence of inflammable/toxic chemicals or gases).

First-response (First-aid)

First-aid is a specialist activity so it hard to be very specific about exactly what to do. Use common sense. Following points are primarily to sensitize you of the possibilities.

General Injury

Do the following and in this order (unless common sense says otherwise):

Do the following and in this order (unless common sense says otherwise):

  1. Call emergency response.
  2. If an individual is contaminated or exposed to a hazardous material in the laboratory, do what is necessary to protect his/her life without compromising your own.  If you can do so safely, determine the nature of the hazardous material and communicate this information to the attending medical personnel.
  3. If the person is in contact with a live electrical circuit, do not touch him/her.  Disconnect the power first by turning off circuit breakers or by dislocating the live wire with a non-conducting object.
  4. Do not move an injured person unless he/she is in further danger. Unnecessary movement can exacerbate injury. Keep the victim warm and awake.
  5. Initiate first aid treatment to the victim if trained or qualified to do so. In the case of severe bleeding, place a paper pad (from first-aid kit) or cloth on the cut and apply firm pressure to control the bleeding.
  6. Call the lab in charge and faculty in charge.

Burn Injury

Follow the following steps and in this order.

  1. Extinguish fire as quickly as possible, with whatever is available. Still it is wise to know that not all methods are equal.
    1. Most effective method is to immediately deluge the victim with water under a safety shower. Water not only extinguishes the fire but also cools down the body by transporting the heat away, preventing further burns. Of course there should a water source and you should be in a position to drag the victim to the source.
    2. Often quickest option is the “stop, drop and roll” drill. Just make sure to put some damp towels on victim to reduce temperature, once the flame is extinguished.
    3. If water is not available and drop/roll is not practical, blankets, coats, etc. can be used to smother the fire. Remember, try to smother, not fan the flames so they become more intense. Remember even after the flames die down the body continues to suffer damage due to all the trapped heat. So, apply some damp towels, to reduce body temperature.
    4. In extreme cases, fire extinguishers can be used. However, understand the following:
      1. CO2 type extinguishers tend to freeze. So, don’t focus spray on the same place for 10s of seconds. Try to create a blanket of CO2 around the person so that the flames die down.
      2. Extinguishers are designed to be aimed at the base of a fire. They don’t work well on surfaces, like human body.
      3. With foam-type extinguishers, you need to create a blanket around the burning person, which is hard and wastes precious seconds.
  2. If there is danger of further injury, move the victim. Else let them be.
  3. Call emergency response.
  4. Immerse the burned area in very cold or ice water until pain not only is relieved but also does not return when the burned area is removed from the water. If the burn cannot be immersed, apply ice cold compresses.
  5. After ice treatment, cover the victim with a blanket to keep him/her warm to prevent hypothermia.
  6. If the burns are extensive there is a high probability of victim going into a shock, so try to keep the patient awake and calm.
  7. Be careful not to contaminate the burned area. Cover the burned area with sterile gauze or a sheet. Do not apply oily ointments, lotions or cleanser to the burned area.
  8. Call the lab in charge and faculty in change.

Chemical Spill on Body

  1. Remove the victim from contact with the chemical as promptly as possible. 
  2. Affected areas of the skin should be thoroughly flushed with water (at least 15 minutes) by shower.  Do not apply neutralizing or buffering agents. During flushing, goggles should be left on the victim until his head and face have been washed.
    1. Alkali metals (e.g., lithium, sodium, and potassium) should be rapidly removed with a cloth, paper towel or tweezers before flushing with water. If any metal on the skin ignites on contact with water, immediately deluge it with cold water.
  3. Remove the clothing contaminated with chemicals but do not remove clothing that has burned onto the skin.
  4. For fluoride acid spills, use liberal amount of calcium gluconate after washing with water to neutralize the fluoride ions. Use way more than what you think is enough.
  5. Call emergency response.
  6. Call the lab in charge and faculty in charge.

Eye Injury

  1. Try to remove the foreign object, if and only if, it is loose and unattached. Best to do this with a wet piece of clean cotton or with clean water.
  2. If the particle is on the cornea or is embedded in the eye, do not touch it.
  3. For splashes of chemicals in the eye or exposure of the eye to corrosive vapors, remove contact lenses if necessary and flush the eye thoroughly with water from an eye wash fountain for at least 15 minutes. Eyelids should be forcibly held apart so that the entire surface of the eye may be washed. Never apply a neutralizing solution as first aid.
  4. Call emergency response. Transfer the victim to a physician or ophthalmologist immediately.
  5. Call the lab in charge and faculty in change.

Ingestion of Chemicals

  1. Call emergency response.
  2. Call the lab in charge and faculty in change.
  3. Provide the ambulance crew and physician with the chemical name and other relevant information. If possible, send the container, and/or a label along with an MSDS with the victim to the nearby health center.

Inhalation of Chemicals

  1. Do not enter the area if you expect oxygen depletion, explosive vapors or toxic gases.
  2. Special equipment must be worn by the rescue party. If you don’t have access to the equipment, just call emergency response.
  3. Remove the victim from the contaminated atmosphere and move into the fresh air as quickly as possible.
  4. Call emergency response.
  5. Call the lab in charge and faculty in charge.
  6. If possible, identify the substance to which the victim was exposed. Provide the ambulance crew and physician with the chemical name and other relevant information.  If possible, send the container, and/or a label along with an MSDS with the victim to the nearby health center.


In case the victim is unconscious, unresponsive, or unable to respond; and if you cannot ascertain the type of injury, assume the worst. If the lab has toxic gases, assume gas leak. If the lab has hazardous chemicals, assume chemical exposure. If the lab has lasers, assume laser injury. In all cases priority is your own safety.

  1. Evaluate if you can safely enter the lab. If not, then just call the emergency response.
  2. If you can enter safely, see if you can help the victim.
    1. If the victim is in danger of continuous exposure, try to remove him.
    2. If the victim is not in danger of more exposure, leave him as is. Unnecessary movement may exacerbate injury.
  3. Call the emergency response.
  4. Call the lab in charge and faculty in charge.
Last Updated : March 18, 2019