Hazardous materials are part of everyday life and include everything from industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners. Substances that are classified as hazardous materials because of their chemical nature and pose a potential risk to life, health or property if released or improperly used. Hazards can occur during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal. Incidents can range from a chemical spill on a highway to groundwater contamination by naturally occurring methane gas.
Boulder County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)
The Boulder County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) works with the community to identify industrial hazardous materials and keep the community informed of the potential risk. All companies that have certain types and quantities of hazardous chemicals must report annually to the LEPC. The public is encouraged to participate in the process. For more information about the Boulder County LEPC, contact the Boulder Office of Disaster Management at (303) 441-3390.
Before a hazardous materials incident:
- Contact LEPC about community plans for responding to a hazardous materials accident at a plant or other facility, or a transportation accident involving hazardous materials.
- Evaluate risks to your household. Determine your proximity to factories, highways or railroads that may produce, store or transport hazardous materials.
- Be prepared to shelter-in-place or evacuate if asked to do so by authorities.
During a hazardous materials incident:
- If you witness or smell a hazardous materials incident, call 911.
- Upon notification by public safety officials of a hazardous materials release, listen to local radio or television stations for further information. Follow instructions of authorities carefully. You may be asked to evacuate or shelter-in-place depending on your location.
- Stay away from the incident site to minimize your risk of contamination.
- If you are caught outside during an incident, remember that gases and mists are heavier than air. Try to stay Uphill, Upwind, and Upstream from the hazardous material. Try to go at least one-half mile, or about 10 city blocks away from the danger zone.
- If you are in a vehicle, stop and seek shelter in a building if possible. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner or heater.
- Get household members and pets inside as quickly as possible.
- Avoid contact with spilled liquids, airborne mists or condensed solid chemical deposits. Keep your body fully covered to provide some protection. Do not eat food or drink water that may be contaminated. If indoors, fill the bathtub (sterilize it with a diluted bleach solution – one part bleach to 10 parts water), and fill large containers with water for drinking, cooking and dish washing. Be prepared to turn off the main water intake valve in case authorities advise you to do so.
After a hazardous materials incident:
- Do not return home or leave your shelter room until local authorities say it is safe.
- Upon returning home, open windows, vents, and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
- A person or item that has been exposed to a hazardous chemical may be contaminated and could contaminate other people or items. Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
- Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
- If medical help is not immediately available and you think you are contaminated, remove all your clothing and place it in tightly sealed containers. Then shower thoroughly, washing your hands first. (NOTE: It is very important to pay attention to instructions from authorities; some chemicals are water reactive) Change into loose, clean clothing and seek medical help as soon as possible.
- Contact local authorities about proper disposal of contaminated items.
- Advise everyone who comes into contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance. Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property. Report any lingering vapors or hazards to local authorities.