OBJECTIVE To audit the facilities for chemical decontamination, with special reference to cyanide poisoning, in all major accident and emergency departments in the UK. METHOD A simple postal questionnaire was used to audit planning, premises, equipment, protection for staff, and stocks of specific antidotes to cyanide poisoning. RESULTS 227 questionnaires from 261 departments (87%) were returned and used in the survey. Of the 227 departments who responded, 151 (66%) had a written plan; 168 (74%) departments had premises for decontamination; 55 (24%) were judged to have satisfactory premises; 146 (64%) departments had a shower or hose for decontamination; 60 (26%) departments had a decontamination trolley suitable for "stretcher" patients; 203 (89%) had some protective equipment for staff but only 77 (34%) had complete protection--that is, goggles, chemical resistant clothing, and breathing apparatus. In the authors' opinion only seven (3%) departments had satisfactory premises and equipment to treat "stretcher" patients and full protection for staff. A further 11 (5%) departments were equipped to manage ambulant patients at a similar level. Some 205 (90%) departments stocked one or more antidotes to cyanide and 77 (34%) stocked all four antidotes. Thirty four (15%) departments held all four antidotes to cyanide and had full protection for staff. Only five (2%) departments had satisfactory premises and equipment to treat "stretcher" patients, full protection for staff, and at least three of four antidotes. CONCLUSIONS Most departments had some equipment for chemical decontamination. However, there were major inconsistencies in the range of equipment held and these limited its usefulness. Only a small minority of departments was satisfactorily equipped to deal with a serious chemical incident.