Emergency Response Procedures: Hazardous Materials Spills

The dangers of flammable and corrosive materials are obvious, but there are many other ways in which substances can be hazardous to human health. Many people are familiar with “HAZMAT” suits and what seeing them means.

Here are some tips for keeping yourself safe if there has been a major hazardous materials spill nearby. Note that this advice does not pertain to incidents where the HAZMAT spill occurred at your facility, and is intended more as individual safety advice rather than management advice.

Below are tips taken from our Emergency Response Procedures guide book, which is available at no cost to all CSD Pool members. If you would like a copy, you can request one at our website.

If your district is in the vicinity of a hazardous materials event:

  1. Monitor media broadcasts for directions
  2. If ordered to evacuate, do so immediately
  3. If you are caught outside:
    • Stay upstream, upwind, and uphill of the event
    • Keep at least 10 city blocks or 0.5 miles away
    • Avoid spilled liquids, mists, or solid chemicals
  4. If you are caught in an automobile:
    • Stop and seek shelter in a building
    • If you remain in the car, shut the windows
  5. If you are ordered to stay indoors
  6. Close and lock all exterior doors and windows
  7. Set HVAC systems to 100% recirculation if possible, otherwise turn them completely off
  8. Stay in a ground level room with as few windows and exterior doors open as possible
  9. Return to your facility only when authorized
  10. Obtain advice from authorities and HAZMAT crews on property clean up
  11. Immediately report any residual odors or vapors

If you are exposed to any hazardous materials

  1. Listen carefully to decontamination instructions from civil authorities and follow them at once
    • Water could be extremely dangerous, or it could be the best option, if in doubt call 911
  2. Seek medical attention for any symptoms or discomfort as soon as possible
  3. Place any contaminated clothing in tightly sealed containers and do not allow anyone into contact with any other materials, destroy them only as instructed by authorities
  4. Advise those you come into contact with that they have been exposed to a toxic substance
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