Responding to Acid Attacks

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An acid attack refers to the deliberate launch of a corrosive substance towards a person or persons. Acid attacks often occur as part of a violent assault or an armed robbery and can involve the use of several substances such as household cleaners, drain fluid, industrial chemicals and acidic, alkaline and caustic chemicals. December 2017 statistics revealed an alarming rise in acid attacks with senior law officers expecting further increase. An average of two attacks daily are reported by forces throughout the UK.  Furthermore, the police believe many attacks remain unreported. The country now has one of the highest rates of corrosive substance attacks in the world which is why it is imperative that people are aware of the most conducive course of action to take should an attack ever occur. As a result of several recent attacks against license holders and members of the public it is essential that all security businesses and license holders fully equip themselves with the relevant information regarding the appropriate response to a corrosive substance attack.

The Three R’s

In the event of an attack, it is crucial to act quickly. The NHS and the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) have issued important guidance to help people administer appropriate first aid and ensure victims receive the required help as soon as possible. The three R’s refer to:

  • Reporting the attack: Dial 999 immediately
  • Removing any and all contaminated clothing as well as jewellery as carefully as possible.
  • Rinse skin immediately with cold running water for at least 20 minutes.

Additional detailed guidance on how to treat acid and chemical burns has been issued by NHS Choices.

Essential Equipment

All venue owners and employers need to be informed of their responsibility to conduct comprehensive risk assessments with regard to potential acid attacks and devise a structured plan subject to the Health and Safety Act 1974 and the Control of Substances Hazardous to Health Regulations 2002. This includes ensuring commercial premises are fully equipped in order to facilitate an appropriate response to an attack.

The following implements are carried in Metropolitan Police Service vehicles for the purpose of assisting victims of corrosive substance attacks:

  • High density recycled plastic box with seal for the secure transportation of equipment.
  • Latex gloves – these offer 20-30 seconds of protection against corrosive substances. Thicker gloves with higher degrees of chemical resistance can be purchased from laboratories and independent suppliers along with chemical resistant goggles.
  • A five litre bottle of water is sufficient for 10 minutes of constant application. There is no maximum amount of water that can be used to assist a corrosive substance burn.
  • Bottle shower caps facilitate the controlled application of water as it pours from the bottle. Essentially, these transform a bottle into a shower.
  • Large and durable first aid scissors that are able to swiftly and efficiently cut through clothing. They are often referred to as paramedic shears and tough cut scissors.
  • Protective face shields. Recommended by the Health and Safety Executive, these can be purchased from reputable chemical suppliers.

In the event of an attack, the emergency services will arrive with their own specialised equipment in order to provide optimal assistance.

The above information will be consistently updated in the event of further information and advice concerning the prevention of and response to attacks becomes available.

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