Technological Hazards

A Citizens Guide to Hazardous Materials

Monroe County Emergency Management Division Hazardous Materials

Hazardous Materials

From industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives. Affecting urban, suburban and rural areas, hazardous materials incidents can range from a chemical spill on a highway to groundwater contamination by naturally occurring methane gas.

Hazardous materials are substances which, because of their chemical, physical or biological nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or property if they are released. Hazards exist during production, storage, transportation, use and disposal.

Chemical plants are one source of hazardous materials, but there are many others. Your local service station stores gasoline and diesel fuel, and hospitals store a range of radioactive and flammable materials. There are about 30,000 hazardous materials waste sites in the United States.

Federal laws enable local governments and interested citizens to become aware of possible hazardous material incidents and prepare for them. Many communities have a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) consisting of local planners, industry and members of the community that identifies industrial hazardous materials and keeps the community informed of the potential risk. The public is encourage to participate in the process as well.

How to Prepare

Understand the emergency warning procedures:

  • Outdoor sirens with a voice announcement will be used within the Fermi 10 mile EPZ
  • Emergency Alert System activations will be broadcast on radio and TV
  • Cable override messages will be activated for Monroe, River Raisin, and Bedford cable systems.
  • Residential "route alerting" will be used if needed. Police and Fire will travel the neighborhoods, run their siren and use their public address speaker to announce a message.
  • Ask your LEPC to find out precise information about where reportable quantities of extremely hazardous substances are stored and where they are used.
  • Ask your LEPC or emergency management office about community plans for responding to a hazardous materials incident at a plant or other facility, or a transportation accident involving hazardous materials.
  • Use this information to evaluate the risks to your family. Determine how close you are to freeways, railroads or factories which may produce or transport toxic waste.
  • Coordinate a neighborhood tour of any industries that manufacture and store hazardous materials. Include interested neighbors, local officials and the media.
  • Be prepared to evacuate. An evacuation could last for a few hours to several days.

What to Do in a Hazardous Materials Incident

  1. If you witness a hazardous materials accident, call 911.
  2. If you hear a siren, listen to local radio or television stations for further information. Follow all instructions carefully.
  3. Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of contamination.
  4. If you are caught outside during an incident, try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind - hazardous materials can quickly be transported by water and wind. In general, try to go a least one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area; for many incidents you will need to go much further.
  5. If you are in a car, close windows and shut off ventilation. This will reduce the risk of contamination.
  6. If you are asked to evacuate, please cooperate with local officials.
  7. If requested to stay indoors or "in-place shelter", please follow all instructions from local officials.
  8. Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne mist or condensed solid chemical deposits. Keep your body fully covered and wear gloves, socks and shoes, although these measures may offer minimal protection.
  9. Do not eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
  10. If you need to stay indoors, fill the bathtub (sterilize it first) and large containers with water. Be prepared to turn off the main water intake valve in case authorities advise you to do so.

What to Do After an Incident

  1. Do not return home until local authorities say it is safe.
  2. Upon returning home, open windows, vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  3. A person or item that has been exposed to a hazardous chemical may be contaminated and could contaminate other people or items. If you have come into contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, you should: follow decontamination instructions from local authorities, seek medical help if unusual conditions develop, placed exposed clothes and shoes in a bag and contact local authorities for proper disposal methods.
  4. Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  5. Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.