Hazardous Materials Preparedness,
from Washington Military Department, Division of Emergency
Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT)
As many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards
and can be defined as hazardous materials. The risk of a
Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) incident in Whatcom County is
great. Over ten billion pounds of hazardous materials are
shipped, stored, processed, or manufactured in or through the
county each year. On the average, the Division of Emergency
Management is involved in approximately 50 HAZMAT related
incidents annually. Accidents involving toxic substances have
occurred in communities across the country. For example, a
train derailment near Marysville, Washington resulted in
hazardous materials fire and the evacuation of over 100
homes. Because HAZMAT incidents occur suddenly and generally
without warning it pays to know what to do ahead of time.
Ask your local fire department about emergency warning
Find out precise information about where reportable
quantities of extremely hazardous substances are stored
and where they are used. Specific information for most
communities is available from the Washington Department of
Ecology's Hazardous Sites List. Additional detailed
information is available from the Right-To-Know Network.
Ask your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) about
community plans for responding to hazardous materials
Determine how close you are to freeways, railroads or
factories which may produce or transport toxic materials.
Be prepared to evacuate.
Have materials available to seal off your residence from
If you are a witness - call 911 or your local fire
If you hear a warning signal - listen to local radio or
television stations for further information. Follow all
Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of
If caught outside - stay upstream, uphill or upwind. Try
to go one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area.
If you are in a car - close windows and shut off
ventilation. Evacuate if told to do so.
If local officials say there is time, close all windows,
shut vents, and turn off attic fans and other ventilation
systems to minimize contamination.
To reduce the possibility of toxic vapors entering your
home, seal all entry routes as efficiently as possible.
If an explosion is imminent - close drapes, curtains and
If you suspect gas or vapor contamination - take shallow
breaths through a cloth or towel.
Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne
mist or condensed solid chemical materials.
Do not eat or drink any food or water that may have been
After a Hazmat Incident
Seek medical help for unusual symptoms.
If medical help is not immediately available and you
suspect contamination - remove all clothing and shower
Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed
containers without allowing them to contact other
materials: get directions for proper disposal.
Advise others of your possible contamination.
Get direction from local authorities on how to clean up
your land and property.
Return home only when directed to do so. Upon returning
home, ventilate the house.
Report lingering vapors or other hazards.
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