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Today’s world is full of chemicals; we use them daily at work and at home. Although these chemicals make our lives easier, they also represent a potential hazard. Hazardous materials travel throughout the State daily via automobiles, tanker trucks, and trains. This could include anything from gasoline or explosives to toxic waste. The following tips will help you prevent a hazardous material incident and teach you what to do should one occur at home, work, school, or while traveling.

What to Do in a Hazardous Material Incident

  • Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne mist, or solid chemical deposit.
  • If you come upon a hazardous material spill, stay upwind and upstream from it.
  • Keep your body fully covered and wear gloves for protection.
  • Do not eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
  • Do not allow your pet to eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
  • Rely on and follow the instructions of your local authorities.
  • Monitor messages from Emergency Management, and listen to a local radio or television station for additional instructions.
  • You may be instructed to “shelter-in-place.”
  • If you are instructed to evacuate, stay calm and follow the instructions of local authorities.

If You Come in Contact with or Have Been Exposed to Hazardous Materials

  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Depending on the chemical, you may be advised to take a thorough shower, or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Remember that gases and mists are generally heavier than air, and hazardous materials can quickly be transported by wind and water. In general, try to get at least ½ mile away from the release.
  • If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and find shelter in a permanent building if possible.
  • If you must remain in your car, keep windows up, vents closed and shut off your air conditioner.
  • If you need to leave your home, do so immediately. Take your animals with you, but do not endanger yourself doing so.
  • If you are told that you have time, close all windows and shut all vents to minimize contamination.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local authorities.

Household Hazardous Materials Safety

Chemicals are a part of our everyday life. These products include, but are not limited to pesticides, cleaning products, solvents, pool chemicals, paint, used oil, and propane cylinders. Almost every home has some type of chemical product that can be hazardous if not used, stored, or disposed of properly.

When these products are no longer needed or usable we refer to them as "Household Hazardous Waste", or HHW for short. Anywhere along the disposal route HHW can present a threat to the public, solid waste workers, and the environment if not properly disposed. Residents are encouraged to separate HHW from their household garbage and dispose of it at an appropriate facility.

When purchasing potential household hazardous materials

  • Think small. Use the correct amount of product recommended.
  • Twice as much is not twice as effective and may be twice as toxic.
  • Purchase only the amount that you will use. Consider splitting products with a relative or neighbor.
  • Purchase the least toxic product available. Avoid aerosols if possible.
  • If you do not use it all, dispose of it or store it properly, keeping it out of landfills.
  • Never dump on the ground, in the gutters, or in the sewer system. This can result in pollution of surface and groundwater, wildlife habitat, as well as kill the active bacteria in wastewater processes.
  • Follow all directions on the product, including use of all recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).

If you must store materials:

  • Follow all directions closely.
  • Never mix chemicals.
  • Store in original containers, away from small children and pets.
  • Always use in a well-ventilated area.

If a spill should occur

  • Follow clean up recommendations on the label – read these prior to using the product.
  • If you are unsure if it is safe, leave the area and call 9-1-1.

Nuclear Power Plants

There are three nuclear power plants in the state of Florida: one at Crystal River (north of Tampa), St. Lucie (north of Palm Beach County), and the other at Turkey Point (south of Miami).

Radioactive Materials

It is possible that a transportation accident could be a radioactive health risk, but the chances are very small. Some low-level radioactive waste products used in medical facilities are routinely carried over highways all over the world. Hazardous materials are securely packed and quantities are carefully limited.

All are to be clearly marked "Radioactive" with black markings on a yellow or white background.

If you should see such a package that has been involved in an accident, simply move away from it, and be sure emergency responders know of its presence. Do not attempt to move it yourself.

Packaging of radioactive materials is highly regulated by federal law and is very strong, compared to its contents. Still, it's better to leave recovery to trained experts!



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