The Chemical Transportation Emergency Center (CHEMTREC) is a response organization established by the U.S. chemical manufacturers association to provide chemical hazard related information on a 24-hour basis to firefighters, law enforcement, and other emergency responders. According to their Web site (, CHEMTREC's Operations Center receives about 350 calls a day in reference to about 125 incidents, on average.

CHEMTREC celebrated its 40th anniversary last year and now offers its services globally, taking calls worldwide, and providing translation in more than 180 languages. In addition to providing assistance with handling of chemical emergencies such as fires, spills, leaks, or exposures, they also provide a cost-effective resource for shippers and manufacturers to meet certain hazardous materials regulations imposed by governments in various jurisdictions around the world.

CHEMTREC has a fully staffed operations center that is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-424-9300. Their Emergency Service Specialists are fully trained and ready to provide guidance and information in the event of a major hazardous materials spill. They are linked to an extensive network of chemical, medical, toxicological, and hazardous materials experts. They can put first responders who are at the scene in direct communication with these experts. CHEMTREC states that they go to great lengths to ensure that the information they share is both timely and accurate. They maintain an expansive collection of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS). Shared information originates from this collection as well as information databases, emergency contacts, and medical and chemical specialists. In the event of a medical exposure, staff can contact physicians and toxicologists who can provide critical information to emergency medical technicians and physicians treating patients exposed to hazardous materials.

In an article by James daSilva, CHEMTREC's managing director G. R. "Randy" Speight says, "There are no typical incidents — each presents its own unique challenge. The gravity of the situations in which CHEMTREC is called to assist ranges greatly — from liquid dripping from a tank truck to a multi-car train derailment. With the product information and guidance that CHEMTREC provides, responders on scene can determine the appropriate steps to take. In parallel, CHEMTREC notifies the manufacturer or shipper that the incident has occurred and the details so that follow-up action can be taken. CHEMTREC personnel are trained to deal with each incident in a calm and thorough manner, because every caller considers his incident to be an 'emergency'."1

CHEMTREC services are free of charge to local responders and the general public. Registration is required of shippers who wish to use the emergency telephone number on shipping documents. Registration is encouraged of those who think they may one day have an incident requiring CHEMTREC's services so that the best and quickest assistance can be provided. There is, however, a fee associated with registration. The customer service representative I spoke with gave me a ballpark figure of $675/yr for a farmer to register his business. She went on to say that CHEMTREC works similar to a hospital. If medical assistance is needed and you don't have insurance, they can't turn you away. However, your treatment can be more efficient if they have all of your information ahead of time. Registering with CHEMTREC would be advantageous for pesticide users, but I'm not sure there are many small businesses and producers who are willing to gamble that much money on a potentially hazardous-spill free year. Again, their emergency services are free of charge and always available to anyone needing assistance.

In the event of a hazardous materials spill, please be aware that calling CHEMTREC does not exempt you from having to notify the appropriate federal, state or local authorities. CHEMTREC will not notify them for you. For major spills, remember that IEMA (Illinois Emergency Management Agency) must be contacted (800-782-7860). For more information on how CHEMTREC assists emergency responders, please visit their Web site at: Their customer service line (non-emergency) is 1-800-262-8200 (within the USA) or +1 703-741-5500 (from anywhere in the world). Take a minute to add their emergency number (800-424-9300) to your cell phone so you have it in case you need it.

You can watch a short video on YouTube that explains quite well what CHEMTEC does at this link: