Hazardous Material Scenarios

A dangerous haz mat situation

Thinking about hazardous materials scenarios can be scary. The best way to combat any fear is to learn as much as you can about any potential dangerous scenarios, and then come up with a workable plan.

Clarity on Hazardous Materials Scenarios

Hazardous materials, for better or worse, are a part of our everyday lives. All types of hazards materials are transported daily in and around the United states via air, water, rail and pipelines. Most of the time, this transport is done safely with no harm to the general public. Occasionally, however, there are spills. Here's some clarification to further help explain the nature of these materials.

  • What are hazardous materials? -- They are substances or materials that are chemical, physical or biological in nature, that if released, can pose a potential risk to life, health or property.
  • Examples of hazardous materials scenarios -- It's important to understand that because of their inherent composition, potential hazards can occur during any stage of hazardous material use; be it during storage, production, transportation, use or disposal. An example of a hazardous situation may include:
    • A person overcome by fumes because of a chemical reaction to cleaners in their kitchen.
    • A fuel spill on a road as a result of a traffic accident.
    • A chemical released from a storage facility that may require the evacuation of thousands of people.
    • Tank cars carrying very toxic materials spills and falls off a train.
  • Trained Team Specialists -- In the event of a hazardous spill, it's more likely than not that trained team specialists who be called in to handle the potentially dangerous situation. These specialists:
  • Are equipped to handle railroad tank car emergencies
  • Can transport trailer tankers
  • Handle confined space rescue and response
  • Deal with weapons of mass destruction
  • Respond to radiological and nuclear threats
  • Conduct mass decontamination

In the Event of an Emergency

Although it is comforting to know that there are trained specialists who can deal with a hazardous situation, you may still have to wait for these specialists to arrive. In the event of a hazardous materials emergency, here's what to do:

Hazardous Materials Emergency
Place What to do
During and hazardous materials incident
  • If you witness a hazardous materials release, accident, spill or leak, it is imperative that you immediately call 911.
  • Upon hearing a warning signal, tune in to a local radio or television station and listen carefully to any instructions.
  • If you are not told to evacuate, don't. It may be because conditions are deteriorating. Follow any shelter instructions.
  • And if you are told to evacuate, do so immediately. Don't forget to lock home doors and windows, and to keep your car windows up and vents closed.
  • Stay away from the incident location, as this will lessen your chances of contamination.
Indoors
  • First, stay uphill, upstream and upwind of any incident because hazardous materials can quickly be transported by water and wind.
  • Second, if you are in your car at the time of the incident, close off any ventilation and shut your windows.
  • Third, avoid any contact with spilled materials, airborne mist, or condensed solid or liquid chemical deposits. Keep your body fully covered, and if possible, wear gloves, socks and shoes.

After an Incident

After a hazardous situation has occurred, it's important to keep some general rules in mind. Consider the following, and remember that having a viable plan is the best defense in any hazardous scenario:

  • Continue to monitor your local radio and television stations for emergency instructions.
  • Do not return home or re-enter an area until proper authorities have given you the clearance to do so.
  • Once you do return home, open your windows and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  • Don't hesitate to throw away any uncovered or exposed food.
  • Keep in mind that anyone or anything (such as items) that has been exposed to a hazardous chemical may be contaminated and could contaminate other people or things. If you have been in contact with, or have contaminated items, closely follow decontamination instructions from county officials.
  • If you find yourself suffering from symptoms of exposure, dial 911 and seek medical attention.
  • Finally, report any lingering vapors or other hazards to 911.
Hazardous Material Scenarios