Unintentional Events: Hazmat Incidents

April 25, 2011  //  

 


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Unintentional Events: Hazmat Incidents


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What are hazardous materials?


Hazardous materials, or hazmat, are substances that, because of their chemical nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or property if they are released. Spills can happen during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal of these substances.


All jurisdictions in Virginia have a Local Emergency Planning Committee that identifies local industrial hazardous materials and keeps the community informed of the potential risks. All companies that have hazardous chemicals must adhere to federal reporting requirements monitored by the local government and/or planning committee and must inform local emergency management of their response plan. Contact your local emergency management office to find out where hazardous chemicals are located in your area, as well as information about your Local Emergency Planning Committee.


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What areas in Virginia are most vulnerable?


Virginia’s hazardous materials officers typically receive 2,000 notifications of hazmat incidents a year. Of these, spills or releases of flammable liquids are the most common. Fixed facilities, like industrial plants, highways and waterways are where most of the incidents occur. Hampton Roads historically report the greatest number of petroleum and other hazardous materials releases, mainly due to the large number of ports and shipping operations in the area.


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What is the likely impact of a hazmat situation on a businesses?


In the worst case, there could be injuries or death to the individuals affected by a hazmat incident. A business might have to evacuate depending on the quantity and type of chemical released, or local officials might close a facility or area for hours, possibly days until a substance is properly cleaned up. Businesses that store, produce or transport hazardous materials will be fined for spills. The business involved in a release would typically be responsible for the cost of clean up.


A business that is located near the site of a hazardous materials spill or release is likely to be unaffected unless the substance is airborne and poses a threat to areas outside the accident site. In that case, local emergency officials would order an immediate evacuation of areas that could potentially be affected. Depending on the type of hazardous substance, it could take hours or days for emergency officials to deem the area safe for return. In some cases, special equipment might be used to decontaminate people, objects or buildings affected. Workers might need medical attention. In the meantime, business productivity and revenue losses are likely.


Read about responding to hazmat incidents.


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Be ready. Be willing to help.

Virginia Disaster Relief Fund