Hazardous Materials Incident Preparedness

Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons, and radioactive materials. These substances are most often released due to transportation accidents or accidents at plants.  Large-scale hazardous materials incidents are less common than other disasters, but can be damaging and even deadly.  The most important action you can take is to remove yourself from the affected area.  In some situations, you may be asked to shelter-in-place.  See below for a few tips.

Three things to add to your emergency kit:

  • Plastic sheeting
  • Duct tape
  • Scissors

Key Tips

  • Hazardous Materials accidents vary widely in severity. To keep yourself safe, stay away from the area. A good rule is to stay at least one-half mile away from the danger area.
  • Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind from the release or accident site.


If you are requested to Shelter In Place:

  • Bring pets inside.
  • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents and fireplace dampers.
  • Turn off HVAC systems
  • Seal gaps under doors and windows.
  • Retreat to an interior room with no exterior windows or door.
  • Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may have been contaminated.

Shelter Safety for Sealed Rooms

Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air for up to five hours, assuming a normal breathing rate while resting.

Also you should ventilate the shelter when the emergency has passed to avoid breathing contaminated air still inside the shelter.