As many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and can be defined a hazardous materials. Accidents involving toxic substances have occurred in communities across the country. For example, tank cars containing toxic substances derailed and burned in Kentucky, forcing 7,500 residents to evacuate. A train derailment near Marysville, Washington resulted in hazardous materials fire and the evacuation of over 100 homes. Because HazMat incidents occur suddenly and generally without warning it pays to know what to do ahead of time.
- Ask your local fire department about emergency warning procedures.
- Find out precise information about where reportable quantities of extremely hazardous substances are stored and where they are used.
- Ask your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) about community plans for responding to hazardous materials accidents.
- Determine how close you are to freeways, railroads or factories which may produce or transport toxic materials.
- Be prepared to evacuate.
- Have materials available to seal off your residence from airborne contamination.
- If you are a witness, call 911.
- If you hear a warning signal-listen to local radio or television stations for further information. Follow all instructions.
- Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of contamination.
- If caught outside, stay upstream, uphill or upwind. Try to go 0.5 mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area.
- If you are in a car-close windows and shut off ventilation.
- Evacuate if told to do so.
- If local officials say there is time, close all windows, shut vents, and turn off attic fans and other ventilation systems to minimize contamination.
- To reduce the possibility of toxic vapors entering your home, seal all entry routes as efficiently as possible.
- If an explosion is imminent-close drapes, curtains and shades.
- If you suspect gas or vapor contamination-take shallow breaths through a cloth or towel.
- Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne mist or condensed solid chemical materials.
- Do not eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
- Seek medical help for unusual symptoms.
- If medical help is not immediately available and you suspect contamination-remove all clothing and shower thoroughly.
- Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers without allowing them to contact other material; get directions for proper disposal.
- Advise others of your possible contamination.
- Get direction from local authorities on how to clean up your land and property.
- Return home only when directed to do so.
- Upon returning home, ventilate the house.
- Report lingering vapors or other hazards.