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Falling Satellite First Responder Guide (FEMA)


Title: First Responder Guide For Space Object Re-Entry
Date: February 14, 2008
Source: FEMA (PDF)

Abstract: Information for the Public 
A United States satellite is falling back to earth and could potentially impact almost anywhere on the planet. The satellite has hazardous materials on board that could pose immediate hazards to people if they come in contact with the material. Specifically, the satellite contains fuel and metal containers that are considered hazardous materials and could survive entry intact. Any debris should be considered potentially hazardous, and should not be touched, handled, or moved. Citizens who observe or encounter falling debris should notify your local public safety agency and stay away from it.

Information for First Responders 
The satellite that is degrading from orbit has hazardous materials on board that could pose immediate hazards to people if they come in contact with the material. The craft contains fuel and specialized containers that are considered hazardous materials and could survive entry intact. Any debris should be considered potentially hazardous, and first responders should not attempt to pick it up or move it.  First responders should secure a perimeter and control access around any debris. DO NOT pick up any debris. Notify your local emergency manager of its location immediately. The concerns are similar to those encountered after the space shuttle Columbia entered the atmosphere. However, this craft has far less hazardous materials and is much smaller in size.

The following information about the two hazardous materials of concern is provided for first responders. 

Potential Hazards 

1. Fire or Explosion

2. Flammable/combustible materials.

3. May be ignited by heat, sparks or flames.

4. Vapors may form explosive mixtures with air.

5. Vapors may travel to source of ignition and create flashback.

6. Most vapors are heavier than air. They will spread along ground and collect in low or confined areas (sewers, basements, tanks).

7. Vapor explosion hazard indoors, outdoors, or in sewers.

8. Those substances designated with a "P" may polymerize explosively when heated or involved in a fire.

9. Runoff to sewer may create fire or explosion hazard.

10. Containers may explode when heated.

11. Many liquids are lighter than water.

Health 

1. May cause toxic effects if inhaled or ingested/swallowed.

2. Contact with substance may cause severe burns to skin and eyes.

3. Fire will produce irritating, corrosive and/or toxic gases.

4. Vapors may cause dizziness or suffocation.

5. Runoff from fire control or dilution water may cause pollution.

Public Safety 

1. As an immediate precautionary measure, isolate spill or leak area for at least 50 meters (150 feet) in all directions.

2. Keep unauthorized personnel away.

3. Stay upwind.

4. Keep out of low areas.

5. Ventilate closed spaces before entering.

Protective Clothing

1. Wear positive pressure Self Contained Breathing Apparatus (SCBA).

2. Wear chemical protective clothing that is specific for this product. It may provide little or no thermal protection.

3. Structural firefighters' protective clothing provides limited protection in fire situations ONLY; it is not effective in spill situations where direct contact with the substance is possible.

First Aid 

1. Move victim to fresh air.

2. Call 9-1-1 or emergency medical services.

3. Give artificial respiration if the victim is not breathing.

4. DO NOT use mouth-to-mouth method if the victim ingested or inhaled the substance; give artificial respiration with the aid of a pocket mask equipped with a one-way valve or other proper respiratory medical device.

5. Administer oxygen if breathing is difficult.

6. Remove and isolate contaminated clothing and shoes.

7. In case of contact with substance, immediately flush skin or eyes with running water for at least 20 minutes.

8. For minor  skin contact, avoid spreading material on unaffected skin,

9. Keep victim warm and quiet.

10. Effects of exposure (inhalation, ingestion, or skin contact) to substance may be delayed.

11. Ensure that medical personnel are aware of the materials involved and take precautions to protect themselves (FEMA, 2008)