Emergency Preparedness Essentials


Hazardous Materials Incidents

Chemicals are used to sanitize medical equipment, purify water, lubricate devices with moving parts, and deter pests. Chemicals used improperly can pose threats to human and environmental health. As a result, chemicals must be used, disposed, transported, and stored properly. Chemicals that are transported or stored improperly cause environmental damage.

Hazardous waste and chemicals can cause serious health problems, property damage, and death. Toxic chemicals can be found in many household products. Hazardous chemicals are transported daily throughout the country’s roadways.

In addition to chemical manufacturing plants, dangerous chemicals can be found at garbage dumps, hospitals, and gas stations.

Radioactive waste, poison, and combustible and flammable compounds are examples of dangerous chemicals. Dangerous substances are often released in the environment during traffic and factory accidents.

What to Do Before a Hazardous Materials Incidents

Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) are community groups responsible for amassing and disseminating information about hazards chemicals located in within in close proximity to the community. Additionally, LEPCs develop response plans in case dangerous chemicals are dispersed in the community. Informing community members about these emergencies are covered in these plans.

Contact your local LEPC for information about local chemical hazards and steps that can be taken to minimize harm during emergencies. Local Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offices can provide information about local LEPCs.

In the event of a hazardous chemical emergency, follow these steps to reduce risk:
  • Develop an emergency kit with water, battery-powered radios, food immune from spoilage, flashlights, first-aid supplies, and extra clothing. Ensue you place scissors, duct tape, and plastic sheets in your kit since these items will be useful during a hazardous chemical emergency. The kit should be easy to move in case you must evacuate your home in short notice.
  • Develop an emergency and evacuation plan for your family. During disasters, family members are often spread apart, so it is essential to deve

What to Do During a Hazardous Materials Incidents

Pay attention to local news broadcasts for instructions from public officials and other important details. Do not disregard any instructions. Avoid the contaminated region to reduce possible health risks. Be advised that some dangerous chemicals do not emit smells.

If You Are Asked to Evacuate
  • Leave the contaminated area immediately.
  • Pay close attention to local news broadcasts for details about evacuation procedures and routes and information about open public shelters.
  • When evacuating, do not take shortcuts since these routes could be unsafe. Always evacuate on routes approved by public safety officials. Evacuate immediately.
  • If possible, reduce house contamination risks by shutting off attic fans and closing all open vents and windows.
  • Evacuate your home with emergency-preparedness kits and other necessary supplies. Take time to assist elderly or disabled neighbors who may need assistance during an evacuation.
If You Are Caught Outside
  • Remain upwind and upstream. Experts recommend to remain a half-mile or more away from the contaminated region. Inform anyone who has not been able to listen to local news broadcasts about evacuation procedures and routes.

  • Never enter regions with airborne mists or touch chemicals or condensed deposits. Wear masks to prevent gas, smoke, or fume inhalation. Avoid areas with high gas and smoke concentrations.
  • Avoid contact with people who’ve been exposed to the hazardous chemicals until professionals have identified the chemicals.
If You Are Caught in A Motor Vehicle
  • Stop immediately and take refuge in a safe building. If it’s not possible to exit your vehicle, shut all car vents and windows and do not use automobile heating or cooling systems.
If You Are Requested to Stay Indoors

  • Have pets stay in the house.
  • Shut all windows and outside doors. Likewise, shut fireplace dampers, vents, and all doors inside the house.
  • Shut off ventilation and air conditioning systems. If you have access to the ventilation system in a large facility, set it to 100 percent recirculation to prevent air from the outside from entering. Turn off ventilation systems without recirculation settings.
  • When waiting out a chemical spill inside a building, relocate to the shelter room.
  • Shelter rooms typically have limited outside openings and are located above ground. Use duct tape, plastic, or towels to seal window and doorway gaps.
  • Use aluminum wrap, wax paper, plastic, or duct tape to seal dryer vent and stove, exhaust fan, air conditioning, and window gaps.
  • Use proper sealing materials to fill gaps in pipes and walls.
  • If you’re inside a building penetrated by potentially toxic vapors or gasses, do not eat contaminated food inside the building, and breathe into a clean towel or cloth.

How to Develop Shelter Safety for Sealed Rooms

Effective sealed rooms provide sufficient space to prevent carbon-dioxide accumulation for 5 or more hours. Every person should be allotted at least ten square feet of space.

Most local officials will not encourage people to occupy sealed rooms in public shelters during chemical spills for more than 3 hours since toxic gasses can slowly seep through the shelter’s walls. It’s best to evacuate the contaminated area as soon as possible.

Public officials should ensure shelters are properly ventilated following a chemical spill to ensure the air inside is safe for future occupants.

What to Do After A Hazardous Materials Incident

Follow these tips to avoid harm immediately following a hazardous materials spill:
  • Relocate to a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recognized public shelter if it is not possible to return home. Locate the closest public shelter by texting SHELTER and your zip code to 43362 (4FEMA).
  • Seek medical attention immediately if you’ve inhaled toxic fumes.
  • Closely adhere to decontamination procedures issued by public officials. Decontaminating can be as simple as taking a shower or avoiding tap water for a short time.
  • If you experience unusual symptoms, do not hesitate seeking treatment.
  • Insert contaminated shoes and clothing inside tightly sealed barrels. Ensure that contaminated items do not come into contact with other items. Local public safety officials can provide information about disposing of contaminated items properly.
  • Notify people that come within your proximity that you’ve been exposed to dangerous fumes or chemicals.
  • Pay attention to local news broadcasts for the latest cleanup information.
  • Assist neighbors who are elderly or have special needs. Neighbors with large families or small children may also require some assistance during hazardous materials emergencies.
  • Do not return home until local safety officials have lifted evacuation orders. Place large fans throughout your home and open vents and windows to ventilate the house.
  • Obtain information from local safety officials about proper home cleanup following hazardous materials emergencies.
  • Contact local safety officials if unusual smells or vapors are present in your home.
Are You Prepared?
Be informed about disasters
Make an emergency survival plan
Build a survival kit
Community and state resources
Emergency Resources by State
Be Informed

Disaster Preparedness
Accidental Hazards
Terrorist Hazards
Disaster Protection
Disaster Recovery
Make A Plan

Plan for Risks
Plan for Family
Develop a Custom Plan
Indian Country
Location Plans
School Emergency Plan
Workplace Plan
Build A Kit

Disaster Supplies Kit
Maintain Your kit
Kit Locations
Water Supply
Food Supply
Supplies Checklist


Plan Escape Routes
Utility Shut-off
Vital Records
Test Safety Skills
Home Storage

Program Management
Business Planning
Testing and Exercises
Program Improvement