Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials. Hazards can occur during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. You and your community are at risk if a chemical is used unsafely or released in harmful amounts into the environment where you live, work or play.
Before a Hazardous Materials Incident
Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and planning made available to the public upon request. Contact your local emergency management office for more information on LEPCs.
The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a hazardous materials incident:
Build an Emergency Supply Kit with the addition of plastic sheeting and duct tape
Make a Family Emergency Plan
Know how to operate your home’s ventilation system
Identify an above-ground shelter room with as few openings as possible.
Read more about Sheltering in Place
During a Hazardous Materials Incident
Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and follow instructions carefully. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless.
If you are:
Asked to evacuate
Do so immediately.
Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures.
If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans.
Take pre-assembled disaster supplies.
Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs.
Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind. In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area.
Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth or mask while leaving the area.
Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.
In a motor vehicle
Stop and seek shelter in a permanent building.
If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.
Requested to stay indoors
Bring pets inside.
Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers, and as many interior doors as possible.
Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems, or set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building.
If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel.
Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.
Go into your pre-selected shelter room.
Seal gaps under and around the following areas with wet towels, plastic sheeting, duct tape, wax paper or aluminum foil:
Doorways and windows
Air conditioning units
Bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans
Stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting
After a Hazardous Materials Incident
The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:
Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
Go to a designated public shelter if you have been told to evacuate or you feel it is unsafe to remain in your home. Text SHELTER + your ZIP code to 43362 (4FEMA) to find the nearest shelter in your area (example: shelter 12345).
Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers.
Advise everyone who comes in to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.