Safety & emergency preparedness

Hazardous materials

Dangerous materials are all around us. They’re carried in trucks, trains, and boats and moved on our highways, railroads, and rivers. Spills don’t happen often, but you should be prepared. Chemical spills or releases of any toxic materials could be poisonous to people and the environment.

You might be able to tell if a hazardous materials incident occurred if you see a group of people with watery eyes who may be twitching, choking, having trouble breathing, or losing coordination. You might also see multiple sick or dead birds, fish, or small animals.

Hazardous materials incident safety tips

If there’s a spill indoors, try to get out of the building without going through the contaminated area. If you can’t get out of the building, try to to move as far away as possible and shelter-in-place. If you are outdoors, stay upstream, uphill, and upwind of the incident area. If you are in a vehicle, stop and seek shelter in a building. If you must stay in your car, keep the windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner or heater. Also remember to:

  • Listen to local news stations for information or instructions.
  • Call 9-1-1 or go to a doctor or hospital as soon as possible if you need medical attention.
  • Do not touch any spilled dangerous liquids, mists, or solid materials.
  • Stay away from the incident area to minimize the risk of danger.
  • Be ready to shelter-in-place if you are told to stay indoors.
  • Evacuate right away if you are told to do so.

If a hazardous chemical gets on your clothing, immediately cut off the clothing to remove it; don’t pull it over your head. Put the clothing in a plastic bag far away from you and anyone else in your home. Wash yourself with regular soap and water. Don’t try to wash or throw out the contaminated clothes.

If you have been exposed to hazardous materials, officials may tell you that you need to be decontaminated. Decontamination means taking off your clothing and washing your body to get rid of the chemical. People with special training can assist with decontamination and provide any necessary medical assistance.


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