Hazards: Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT)


A major chemical emergency is an event that releases a hazardous amount of a chemical into the environment. Hazardous material emergencies can happen underground, on railroad tracks or highways, and at manufacturing plants.

More information on Chemical, Biological, Radiation and Nuclear (CBRN) hazards.

What to Do

In life-threatening emergencies, call the Poison Control Center, 9-1-1 or the operator immediately. If you witness (or smell) a hazardous materials release, call 9-1-1.

  • If you are told to stay inside, close all windows and vents and turn off all fans, heating or cooling systems. Take family members and pets to a safe room, and listen to emergency broadcast stations for instructions. Seal the room if told to do so.
  • If told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • If you find someone who appears to have been injured from chemical exposure, make sure you are not in danger before administering first aid.
  • Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of contamination.
  • If you are caught outside during an incident, try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind. Gases and mists are generally heavier than air and hazardous materials can quickly be transported by water and wind.
    • In general, try to go at least one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area.
  • If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and find shelter in a permanent building if possible. If you must remain in your vehicle, keep the windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.

These events sometimes result in a fire or explosion, but many times you cannot see or smell anything unusual:

  • Chemicals are everywhere. They are an important part of life.
  • The most common chemical accidents occur in our own homes and can be prevented. The best ways to avoid chemical accidents at home are to read and follow the directions for use, storage and disposal of the product. Don't mix products, especially household cleaning products.

Related Information

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