All fires and transportation accidents have the potential to be hazardous materials incidents.
When accidents occur involving hazardous materials, the 1st priority is the prevention of fatalities and injuries to people. Unnecessary damage to property and the environment is the 2nd priority.
Effective Emergency Response Training
To handle hazardous materials incidents properly, it is absolutely necessary to know the properties of the materials involved. Training and preparedness exercises are essential to increase the effectiveness of a community's emergency response procedures.
Recognizing Hazardous Materials
Hazardous materials incidents may be recognized by sight, smell, or sound:
- Sight: Some liquid, solid or gaseous hazardous materials may be detected visually. The release of the materials from its container may result in accumulation or pooling of the material on the ground or in the form of a mist or cloud above the container.
- Smell: One of the first indications there may be a problem may be from the odor of the chemical involved, others may be odorless and colorless.
- Sound: Some releases may be detected by hearing a hissing or roaring sound as the material is released from a pressurized container.
Your 1st concern should be for your personal safety and the safety of those around you. You should:
- Leave the immediate area at once.
- Avoid driving into the area.
- Avoid direct contact with the material.
- Avoid creating sparks or sources of heat which could cause the materials involved to ignite and burn. If you find yourself in a suspected hazardous materials incident, do not light a match, start an engine or even switch on an electric light.
Reporting Suspected Hazardous Materials
The public should report suspected hazardous materials emergencies immediately:
- Call your local fire, police or sheriff's department on the 911 telephone number. Advise them of the location and the nature of the emergency.
- If the product or responsible party involved is known, give that information to the emergency dispatcher. It will be very important in determining the proper level of response necessary.
- Give your name and telephone number so that the emergency dispatcher can get back to you for additional information, and also to provide you with the appropriate instructions on what you should do to protect yourself.
Stay informed about the emergency by listening to your local radio or television station. Authorities will broadcast emergency information for your safety. Outdoor warning sirens may be used to indicate there is a community emergency. These sirens mean "tune to your local radio or television station for emergency information."