Hazmat (Hazardous Materials) Toxic Chemical Spills

picture of hazmat warningThe Risks

Hazardous chemicals are stored and transported all around us. An accidental spill can happen anywhere, at anytime, and with no warning. You must know how to protect yourself until rescue workers can arrive and take control of the situation.

What to look for

If you live near a water tower, then chances are there is a chlorine cylinder stored nearby. If you live near an industrial park, then there may be large quantities of hydrogen fluoride, acids, etc. stored in tanks or buildings. If you live near a transportation route, such as a highway or railroad, chances are that thousands of gallons of hazardous materials go by your home every day. Anytime there is an accident involving any of these sites or vehicles, hazardous chemicals may be released. You may see a cloud of mist or smoke, hear an explosion, see a large fire, or hear the sounds of crashing metal in an accident. If this happens, you should take immediate precautions.

Evacuate or Shelter-in-Place

People's natural reaction to danger is to get away from it. In some cases, however, leaving your home or other building could expose you to greater danger than staying inside. This is never an easy decision, but there are some general guidelines you can follow:

  • If you are in danger from fire, always leave.
  • If the spill or leak is inside your building, shut off sources of ignition and leave.
  • If you see a cloud of smoke or mist in your neighborhood, and you do not see flames nearby, you are probably better off staying indoors. Going outside could expose you to high concentrations of toxic fumes. Sealing your home is often a safer course of action.

See Also: Steps to take for Sheltering-in-Place