Hazardous Material Emergencies


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Hazardous materials accidents do happen in our area. When they occur, dangerous chemicals sometimes escape into the air, soil and/or waterways. These chemicals may threaten people’s health.

There are several things you can do to be prepared. Remember that it might be some time before emergency responders can reach you, depending on the emergency. You can be prepared by doing the following:

  • Prepare an emergency supply kit for your home and car including a first-aid kit, flashlight, battery operated radio, extra batteries, matches, blankets, extra appropriate clothing, prescription medication, fire extinguisher, bottled liquids and ready-to-eat foods.
  • Participate in community and family emergency planning by learning CPR, first aid, lifesaving techniques and taking time to develop a family emergency plan.

In an emergency you may be notified by emergency responders going door-to-door or by an announcement on the radio or television. If you hear emergency sirens you should listen to a local radio or television station for information on the emergency.

Actions You Might Need to Take

In case of a hazardous materials emergency, you may be asked to shelter in place or to evacuate.

If you are told to shelter in place, you should:

  • Go inside until local authorities say it is safe to leave.
  • Close all doors and windows. Seal gaps around windows and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, stoves and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap.
  • Close off non-essential rooms such as storage areas, laundry rooms and extra bedrooms.
  • Turn off heating and cooling systems, including kitchen, bathroom and attic fans.
  • Do not use fireplaces. Put out the fire and close the dampers.
  • Extinguish the pilot light on your water heater, gas stove and furnace if recommended.
  • Turn off your clothes dryer.
  • Bring pets inside.
  • Listen to local radio and television stations for further instructions.

If you are told to evacuate, you should:

  • Close and lock windows, exterior doors and the damper on your fireplace.
  • Turn off clothes dryer, ventilation fans, air conditioners and if recommended, turn off gas, electricity and water.
  • Extinguish the pilot light on your water heater, gas stove and furnace if recommended.
  • Take your family emergency supplies kit, including eyeglasses, dentures, prescription medicines, baby supplies, extra change of clothes, checkbook, credit cards, driver’s licenses and important papers (i.e. name of doctor and pharmacist) with you.
  • Help neighbors who may require assistance (infants, elderly people and people with disabilities.)
  • Drive to the place designated by public officials following the routes recommended by the authorities (shortcuts may not be safe.)
  • Listen to a local TV, NOAA weather radio or radio station for additional instructions.

You should not:

  • Return home until local authorities direct you to.

If you are at the scene of an accident, you should:

  • Call 9-1-1.
  • Move away from the accident scene and help keep others away.
  • If possible, cover your mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
  • Stay away from the accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified and authorities indicate if it is safe to go near the victims.
  • Try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind of the accident.

You should not:

  • Walk into or touch any of the spilled substances.