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Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are substances that, because of their chemical nature, pose a potential risk to life, health and property if they are released. These hazards can exist during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. Massachusetts experiences thousands of HazMat incidents annually. Fortunately, the vast majority of them are small in nature and quickly, easily and safely contained. Most communities in Massachusetts have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) or are members of a Regional LEPC that can identify industrial hazardous materials and help keep communities informed of the potential risk.

Before a Hazardous Materials Threat:

Many communities have Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) or Regional Emergency Planning Committees (REPCs) whose responsibilities include collecting information about hazardous materials in the community and making this information available to the public upon request. The Committees are also are tasked with developing an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the community.

Contact your local or regional committee to find out more about chemical hazards and what needs to be done to minimize the risk to individuals and the community from these materials.

During a Hazardous Materials Threat:

  • If you witness (or smell) a hazardous materials incident, call 911.
  • If there is an incident, check the radio, TV or internet for further instructions.
  • Stay away from the incident site.
  • If you are outside, try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind.
  • If in a motor vehicle, stop and seek shelter in a permanent building if possible. If you must remain in your car, keep windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.
  • If asked to evacuate your home, do so immediately, checking with neighbors who may require special assistance.
  • If requested to ‘shelter-in-place’, follow all instructions given by authorities.
  • Immediately after the shelter-in-place announcement is issued, fill the bathtub (first sterilize it with a diluted bleach solution -one part bleach to 10 parts water) and large containers with water for drinking, cooking and dishwashing. Be prepared to turn off the main water intake valve in case authorities ask you to do so.
  • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers and as many interior doors as possible.
  • Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems.
  • Assemble all household members and pets in the pre-designated HazMat Incident room with your Supply Kit.
  • Close doors and windows in the room, stuffing a towel tightly under each door, taping around the sides and top of the door. Cover each window and vent in the room with a single piece of plastic sheeting, taping all around the edges of the sheeting to provide a continuous seal. If there are any cracks or holes in the room, such as around pipes, fill them with modeling clay or other similar materials.
  • Remain in the room, listening to emergency broadcasts on the radio, until authorities advise you to leave.
  • If warned of the possibility of an outdoor explosion, close all drapes, curtains and shades in the room, staying away from windows to prevent injury from breaking glass.
  • When advised to leave your shelter, open all doors and windows, turning on air conditioning and ventilation systems. These measures will flush out chemicals that infiltrated the building.
  • Schools and other public buildings may institute procedures to shelter-in-place.
  • Do not eat or drink food or water that may have been contaminated.

After a Hazardous Materials Threat:

  • Do not return home until authorities say it is safe.
  • At home, open windows and vents and turn on any fans to provide ventilation.
  • Anyone or anything that has been exposed to a hazardous chemical may be contaminated, and should follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.