Hazardous Materials Incidents
A hazardous material is any substance or material in a quantity or form that may pose a reasonable risk to health, the environment, or property. Hazardous materials risks include incidents involving substances such as toxic chemicals, fuels, nuclear wastes and/or products, and other radiological and biological or chemical agents. In addition to accidental or incidental releases of hazardous materials due to fixed facility incidents and transportation accidents, Missouri and the rest of the nation must be ready to respond to hazmat releases due to terrorism. Generally with a fixed facility, the hazards are pre-identified, and the facility is required by law to prepare a risk management plan and provide a copy of this plan to the local emergency planning commission (LEPC) and local fire departments. Missouri Tier II forms must also be filed with the Missouri Emergency Response Commission (MERC) at the State Emergency Management Agency (SEMA). For specific site plans, each county LEPC is required by law to maintain a copy of these plans.
Each community should educate residents about potential hazardous materials risks in their neighborhoods and about the steps that should be taken to minimize the risk to individuals.
Most communities have LEPCs, whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and making this information available to the public upon request. The LEPCs contact information can be provided by local emergency management offices.
The LEPCs are tasked with developing an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the community. How the public will be notified, and actions plans in the event of a hazmat incident are part of the emergency plan.
Preparedness tips before a hazardous materials emergency
Create a plan for you and your family in the case of a hazardous materials emergency.
- Contact the LEPCs to find out more information about chemical hazards.
- Ask the LEPCs what needs to be done to minimize the risk to individuals and the community from these materials.
- Add plastic sheeting, duct tape, and scissors to your disaster kit supply list.
- Designate a shelter room. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
Preparedness tips during a hazardous materials emergency
To report a hazardous substance release, call Missouri Department of Natural Resources’ Environmental Emergency Response at (573) 634-2436. The department staffs a 24-hour a day, seven days a week, hazardous substance spill reporting telephone line to ensure prompt notification. DNR also has 24/7 on-site response capability. Duty officers with technical expertise provide spill cleanup advice, respond to provide cleanup oversight, coordinate private contractors to clean up hazardous material spills and ensure a proper environmental cleanup is completed.
In case of a hazardous materials emergency, listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and instructions. Follow these instructions carefully. Remember that some toxic chemicals are odorless, so be sure to stay away from the contaminated area to minimize risk for you and your family.
If you are asked to evacuate then:
- Evacuate immediately.
- Stay tuned to local radio or television stations for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures.
- Follow the routes recommended by the authorities. Shortcuts may not be safe.
- If there is time, close all windows, vents and turn off attic fans to minimize contamination in the house.
- Take pre-assembled disaster supplies with you as you evacuate.
- Help any neighbors who may require special assistance.
If you are caught outside then:
- Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.
- Stay upstream, uphill and upwind.
- Try to go at least one-half mile from the contaminated area.
- Move away from the accident scene and help to keep others away.
- Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquid, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits.
- Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke.
- If possible, cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the dangerous area.
If you are caught in a motor vehicle then:
- Stop and seek shelter immediately in a permanent building.
- If you must remain in your vehicle, keep windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.
If you are instructed to stay indoors then:
- Bring all 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 any other ventilation systems. In large buildings, set ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. If this is not possible, then ventilation systems should be turned off.
- Go into the pre-selected shelter room.
- Seal gaps under doorway and windows with wet towels or plastic sheeting and duct tape.
- Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper, or aluminum wrap.
- Use material to fill cracks and holes in the room, such as those found around pipes.
- If there is a chance gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or towel.
- Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.
Preparedness tips after a hazardous materials emergency
Guidelines that should be followed by you and your family following a hazardous materials emergency include:
- If evacuated, return home only when authorities say it is safe.
- Open windows, vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
- Contact local authorities to find out how to clean up your land and property.
- Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services offices.
If you have come into contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, you should do the following:
- Follow decontamination instructions provided by local authorities. You may be advised to take a thorough shower, or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
- Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms immediately.
- Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers. Do not allow them to contact other materials. Call local authorities to find out about the proper disposal methods for these materials.
- Advise everyone who comes into contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
Direct assistance to individuals and families may come from many organizations, including:
Also, remember that Missouri DNR’s Environmental Emergency Response staffs a 24-hour a day, seven days a week, hazardous substance spill reporting telephone line—(573) 634-2436— to ensure prompt notification. DNR also has 24/7 on-site response capability. Duty officers with technical expertise provide spill cleanup advice, respond to provide cleanup oversight, may deploy state contractors or other agencies or assets to a clean up hazardous material spills and ensure a proper environmental cleanup is completed.
- Ready.gov - Chemical Threat
- Ready.gov is the U.S. Government's foremost resource on emergency preparedness and disaster readiness for citizens. Learn how to prepare for a hazardous materials incident.
- University of Missouri Extension: Hazardous Materials
- Publications available from the University of Missouri Outreach & Extension can assist individuals and families in preparing for hazardous materials incidents.