Emergency Preparedness News and Announcements

Hazardous Material Spill/Release



Hazardous materials are substances that are flammable or combustible, explosive, toxic, noxious, corrosive, oxidizable, an irritant, or radioactive. A hazardous material spill or release can pose a risk to life, health, or property.

A warning of a hazardous accident or incident is usually received from the Fire and/or Police Departments or from Emergency Management officials or by social media. An overturned tanker, truck, or train, a crashed airplane, a broken fuel line, or an accident in a chemical plant are all potential hazards.

There are a number of federal laws that regulate hazardous materials, including: the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act of 1986 (SARA), the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), the Hazardous Materials Transportation Act (HMTA), the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), and the Clean Air Act.

Title III of SARA regulates the packaging, labeling, handling, storage, and transportation of hazardous materials. The law requires facilities to furnish information about the quantities and health effects of materials used at the facility, and to promptly notify local and state officials whenever a significant release of hazardous materials occurs.

Detailed definitions as well as lists of hazardous materials can be obtained from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Local authorities and the Emergency Management Office will typically warn the facility of such an accident occurring within the community. Some communities may utilize a county siren or scanner to notify the community of a hazardous spill.

Immediate Action:

“CODE ORANGE” should be communicated to staff with the location of the incident, if it occurs within the facility premises.

  1. Call 911 to alert the emergency response system that a hazardous materials incident is in progress. Provide the 911 dispatcher with as much relevant information as possible.
  2. Contact County Emergency Management Director.
  3. Tune into Emergency broadcasts on the radio/TV or weather radio for additional information and guidance
  4. If an explosion is possible outdoors, close drapes, curtains or shades over windows. Stay away from windows to prevent injury from flying glass.

Common Staff Assignments:

  1. Shut windows and doors.
  2. Ensure residents and visitors remain in the facility until further notice from the local authorities.
  3. Keep doors CLOSED.
  4. Be prepared to activate Evacuation Procedures.
  5. Remain calm to not upset the residents.
  6. Account for all staff members and residents.

Specific Staff Assignments:

  1. Administrator and Director of Nursing, Safety Officers/Maintenance Director will be notified if not on the premises. The Recall Roster activated, if warranted.
  2. Activate the Incident Command System (ICS) to manage the incident. The most qualified staff member (in regard to the Incident Command System) on duty at the time will assume the Incident Commander position. If severity of incident warrants, then appoint other positions of ICS structure.
  3. Facility management staff report to the Incident Command Post for instruction.
  4. Incident Commander:
    • Instruct all staff members, residents, and visitors to stay in the facility until further notice from local authorities.
    • Coordinate internal emergency operations with local authorities who will assist in controlling the situation provided that a good line of communication is established with the Incident Commander.
    • Upon arrival of authorities, establish contact with the officer in charge and relay all relevant information regarding the situation.
    • Based on the magnitude of the incident/accident, evacuation may be necessary. Fire Department, Police, and Emergency Management will assist in determining if evacuation is necessary.
    • Should be responsible for making the decision regarding evacuation, which would be activated via Evacuation Emergency Procedures.
    • Determine if a hazardous chemical or gas leak might endanger the residents.
    • The situation should only be deemed “under control” after the local authorities have concluded emergency operations and the Incident Commander has declared the situation “safe.” At that point an “All Clear” can be announced.
  5. Maintenance
    • Set ventilation systems to 100% recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. When this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off. This is accomplished by pulling the fire alarm.
    • Shut down outside intake ventilation/air conditioners. Close all doors to the outside and close and lock all windows.
    • Turn off heating systems.
    • Turn off air conditioners and switch inlets to the “closed” position. Seal any gaps around window type air conditioners with tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap.
    • Turn off all exhaust fans in kitchens and bathrooms.
    • Close as many internal doors as possible.
    • Use tape and plastic food wrapping, wax paper or aluminum wrap to cover and seal bathroom exhaust fan grills, range vents, dryer vents, and other openings to the outside.
    • If the gas or vapor is soluble or partially soluble in water, hold a wet cloth over your nose and mouth if gases start to bother you. For a higher degree of protection, go into the bathroom, close the door and turn on the shower in a strong spray to wash the air.

Preparing Ahead/Training:

  1. Compile a list of hazardous materials located on facility property.
    Material Quantity Location Stored MSDS Sheet
  2. Identify and label all hazardous materials stored, handled, produced, and disposed of by your facility. Follow government regulations that apply to your facility. Obtain material safety data sheets (MSDS) for all hazardous materials at your location.
  3. Train employees to recognize and report hazardous material spills and releases.
  4. Train employees in proper handling and storage.
  5. Identify any hazardous materials used in facility processes and in the construction of the physical plant.
    • Identify other facilities in your area that use hazardous materials. Determine whether an incident could affect your facility.
  6. Identify potential for an off-site incident affecting operation.
    • Identify highways, railroads, and waterways near the facility used for the transportation of hazardous materials. Determine how a transportation accident near the facility could affect your operations.

See also:

Evacuation, Shelter-in-Place