Acid can be used as a weapon to assist in criminal acts ranging from targeted assaults to robberies and thefts.
There are also occasions when you may accidentally become exposed to these substances and the advice is the same for these occurrences too.
Anyone attacked by acid will need emergency medical treatment and the ambulance service must be called straight away by dialling 999.
While making this call please ask the emergency call operator to also inform the police so we can gather evidence and begin our investigations. The fire service may also be needed to help to identify the chemical used.
In the event of any incident involving acid / corrosive substances there are 3 simple steps to take to reduce the effects on the casualty. These steps are Remove, Remove, Remove.
REMOVE – YOURSELF AND THOSE CONTAMINATED FROM THE IMMEDIATE AREA
- Try to move casualties away from the area of contamination (uphill and upwind, if possible).
- Do not stand in puddles and avoid becoming contaminated.
REMOVE – AFFECTED CLOTHING
- Remove contaminated clothing (in order to remove the chemical and provide better access to flush affected skin).
- Take great care not to pull clothing over the head. Cut away clothing such as jumpers, hoodies, t shirts etc
- Consider cutting off clothing as a safer way to prevent the spread of the contamination to unaffected skin, either the casualty’s or your own.
- Do not remove clothing that is adhering to the skin. Cut around it where possible and leave the affected area covered.
REMOVE – CONTAMINANT – use a copious and continuous flow of water such as showers, hoses or taps
- The immediate care treatment is to flush with copious amounts of water to remove the chemical and cool the affected area.
- The priority is to remove the chemical (not neutralise it) from the casualty as quickly as possible as burning will continue until all of the chemical has gone.
- While flushing the skin, care must be taken to prevent the water flowing over unaffected areas as this will spread the damage.
- This flushing should be maintained for 20 minutes to remove the chemical and cool the affected area.
- Do not allow acid to enter the nose or mouth as it is important that the casualty’s airway is maintained. Flush these areas first to limit damage if they have been exposed to the chemical.
- If the eyes are contaminated the minimum flushing time should be 10 minutes – up to 20 minutes.
- If the person cannot open their eyes the first aider should try and open the eyes for them if this can be done safely. (for discussion)
- It is important when flushing eyes to ensure the contamination is not spread to the other eye by positioning the person appropriately.
DO NOT COVER BURNS OR WIPE
- Do not cover corrosive burns with bandages or burns dressings and do not try to wipe the corrosive off the skin using a damp cloth or neutralise it with soda ash, as this can cause more harm.
Officers now have decontamination kits to provide an immediate response to hazardous / corrosive substance attacks.
The bespoke kits are carried in a bright red bag and contain bottles of water, a shower head attachment and protective equipment, to help prevent injuries through cross contamination.
They have been designed to provide officers with the essential tools needed when dealing with an attack or accidental exposure.