You and your community are at risk if a chemical is used unsafely or released in harmful amounts into the environment where you live, work or play. Hazardous materials come in the form of explosives, flammable and combustible substances, poisons and radioactive materials. These substances are most often released as a result of transportation accidents or because of chemical accidents in plants.
Hazardous material incidents impact and resulting response depends on a multitude of interrelated variables that range from the quantity and specific characteristic of the material to the conditions of the release and area/population centers involved. Releases may be small and easily handled with local response resources or rise to catastrophic levels with long-term consequences that require representatives of federal, state, and local governments to be present at the scene.
Learn about the emergency plans that have been established in your area by contacting your state and local government or Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs). Your local emergency management office can also provide contact information on the LEPCs. FEMA – Find your state office or agency of emergency management
Hazardous Materials Incident Vulnerability Assessment Questions
To assess your vulnerability to the threat of a Hazardous Materials Incident to your family and property, perform an assessment to determine if you have knowledge of, are prepared and/or have a plan by answering the following questions:
General All-Hazard Questions:
- Have you determined the disaster risks in your locale and the hazards that accompany them?
- Do you know the emergency warning signals and alert notifications used in your community?
- Have you instructed family members how to shut off water, gas and electricity to your house?
- Have you made the necessary property preparations to reduce the damage from the hazard?
- Do you have a backup generator in case of a prolonged power failure?
- Have you purchased insurance (property, health, life, and/or hazard type)?
- Have you made the necessary financial arrangements in case of a sudden evacuation and power outage that shuts down local ATMs and banks?
- have you organized important documents and records and stored them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box?
- Have you performed a home inventory video taping the contents stored them in a portable lock box or safe-deposit box?
- Does your family have an established Emergency Communication Plan and evacuation plan in place and asked an out-of-state person to serve as the “family contact”?
- Have you assembled a shelter-in-place Emergency Supplies Kit in case you have to shelter at home and you are without power?
- Have you assembled a mobile Emergency Supplies Kit that can serve as a “grab and go” bag?
- Are you or someone in your family trained in first aid and CPR?
- Have you made they necessary preparations and arrangements for pets, seniors, and the disabled?
- Have you familiarized yourself with the emergency plans of your family member’s employment building, school, day care center, or nursing home?
Hazard Specific Questions:
- Do you know which roads are designated HazMat routes in your area?
- Find the locations of potentially dangerous chemical facilities that are operating near their homes, schools, and businesses.
- Right to Know Network – Facility Location Database and Map
- Interactive maps of toxic and flammable chemical facilities and the facilities that had accidents.
- Find pipelines and past incidents in your area.
- View the National Pipeline Mapping System – As PHMSA notes, this site is for reference only and just not be used as a substitute for compliance with State One Call laws for safe excavation practices. You still must call 811 or a state center before beginning any digging project.
- View Pipeline Incidents Reports from U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA)
- Do you understand the term Shelter In Place and know how to make that happen?
- Have you added plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors to your Emergency Supplies Kit?
- Have you contacted your Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) – whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and making this information available to the public upon request? LEPCs also are tasked with developing an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the community.
This density map displays the amount of Hazardous Materials Incidents by state, 2005 to 2014.
- Washington Military Department – Emergency Management Division: http://www.emd.wa.gov/hazards/haz_hazardous_materials.shtml
- Image Source: http://www.calema.ca.gov/HazardousMaterials/Pages/Area-Plan-for-HazMat-Emergencies.aspx [Accessed July 24, 2013]
- Image Source: Hazmat Intelligence Portal, U.S. Department of Transportation. Data as of 4/2/2014: http://www.phmsa.dot.gov/hazmat/library/data-stats/incidents [Accessed April 2, 2014]