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Hazardous Substance Response:

Hazardous Substance Response The National Response Center is the SOLE national point of contact for reporting Oil, Chemical, Radiological and Biological discharges.

Report Spills to the NRC at 1-800-424-8802

It is important to know what hazardous substances are stored in your community and what hazardous substances may travel through your community. Accidents involving chemicals or radioactive materials represent a significant threat to the environment, public health and safety, and community well-being. In an increasingly complex and interconnected world, no community is immune from the threat posed by environmental accidents and contamination. Even communities far removed from industrial production or storage facilities can still be at risk from accidents associated with the transport of hazardous materials.

Hazardous substances pose unique evacuation challenges because the type of material determines the appropriate response; however, many response plans do not account for this difference. For example chlorine gas sinks lower than air and concentrates in valleys; other gases rise to higher elevations. Response plans and training exercises need to include decision paths that consider the effects of materials and the most appropriate responses to protect the population.

Exposure to hazardous substances can exist on many levels - at home, as part of your work, or as a result of a major spill, leak or release that can affect a large geographical area. Learn what you can do to better safeguard your personal environment and how to respond if an incident does occur.

Containment and cleanup are your goal in a spill, however, the primary consideration is human safety. Emergency responders must understand the fundamental differences between safety considerations for petroleum product responses and those for other hazardous materials incidents.
See Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response Training Requirements

Contaminants of Concern:

Hazardous substances may be explosive, flammable, combustible, corrosive, reactive, poisonous, biological or radioactive, as well as solid, liquid or gaseous. Hazardous substances are covered in depth by numerous websites and databases that are described at Research Individual Chemicals.

Hazardous substances are prevalent throughout our society and a release of a hazardous substance can occur almost anywhere in a community. While industry is the primary user and maintainer of hazardous substances, we also have them in our homes, in our cars, at our places of work and recreation. Most victims of chemical accidents are injured at home. These incidents usually result from lack of knowledge or carelessness in using flammable and combustible liquids. And as many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards that can be defined as "hazardous chemicals."

Business types that commonly use hazardous substances locally include: hospitals, schools, metal plating and finishing, the aircraft industry, public utilities, cold storage companies, fuel industries, communication industry, chemical distributors, research, and high technology firms. Each of these facilities is required to maintain plans for warning, notification, evacuation and site security under various regulations. Additional potential causes of hazardous materials releases may include terrorism incidents and illegal drug labs or dumping.

Hazardous materials move through our region on highways, rail lines, pipelines, and by ship and barge. The most common material involved in transportation accidents are spills of petroleum-related products. See Oil Spills.

Implementing Solutions:

By taking an inventory of hazardous materials in your community or materials that may be transported through your community and where the closest response teams are located, you can determine if your community has access to trained individuals or there is a need to develop an emergency response team. First responders training is the first step to keeping your community members safe in the event of an emergency.

In the event of a hazardous materials spill, training and awareness in the following areas can initiate first response in most situations: identifying a problem, notifying response teams, and securing an area until trained individuals arrive.

Notify primary response agencies and affected state and federal natural resources trustees if numbers are readily available. Each state will have discharge notification and reporting requirements that you can find online or with your state's environment protection office. Regional response teams are also identified in each state.

Resist rushing in and identify and understand the hazards before attempting to help others.

Position yourself upwind, uphill, or upstream from the hazard.

Stay clear of all vapors, fumes, smoke, and spills even if no hazardous materials are known to be involved. Do not assume spilled materials and their by-products are harmless. Many extremely toxic gases and vapors are colorless, odorless, tasteless, and invisible.

Isolate and secure the scene without entering the immediate hazard area. Assess the situation and attempt to determine, from a safe distance, upwind, uphill, upstream, using binoculars if possible.

Protect yourself and the public. Prevent the public from entering the spill site or its perimeter or coming into contact with spilled material. Everyone who is not adequately trained and protected should stay upwind an out of low areas.

Do not walk into or touch spilled material and avoid inhalation.

Call for the assistance of trained personnel as soon as conditions permit. Keep the spill site secure and wait for properly trained officials.

Evacuations in response to releases of oil or hazardous materials shall be conducted in accordance with Local Emergency Response Plans (LERP). The LERP identifies under what circumstances evacuation is appropriate and necessary.

Please submit your experiences (successes/challenges) and tribal-specific documents to share on our website using the attached form.
Download Form


Example Lab Spill Response Procedures and Spill Response Kit [pdf]

NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards [pdf]

2008 Emergency Response Guidebook [pdf]

EPA Standard Operating Safety Guides 1992 [pdf]

NRT Hazardous Materials Emergency Planning Guide 2001 [pdf]

EPA R10 Guidance for Preparing Tribal Emergency Response Plans [pdf]

American Conference of Governmental Industrial Hygienists 2012 Guide to Occupational Exposure Values [html]

Hazardous Materials Compliance Pocketbook (Details driver responsibilities and duties in the transportation of hazardous materials, as prescribed by the U.S. Department of Transportation in Title 49 CFR Parts 107, 171-180 and 390-397.) J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. jjkeller.com 800-327-6868 ISBN978-1-60287-954-6

Handling Hazardous Materials (Developed to help businesses understand and comply with the Hazardous Materials Regulations of the federal Department of Transportation, and to assist in improving their hazardous materials safety programs.) J.J. Keller & Associates, Inc. jjkeller.com 800-327-6868 ISBN978-1-60287-568-5


The National Response Center's primary function is to serve as the national point of contact for reporting all oil, chemical, radiological, biological, and etiological discharges into the environment anywhere in the United States and its territories:

EPCRA Requirements:

EPA's Emergency Management Programs:

Laws and Regulations developed to implement EPA's Emergency Management Program:

Hazardous Waste State Resource Locator Use the pulldown or the sensitive map to find hazardous waste and RCRA compliance resources on state websites. You will find general information, fact sheets, permit forms and guidance, contact information and other helpful resources and tools. See also a description of Federal rules:

AristaTek Newsletters provide interesting articles on hazardous substances:

EPA Environmental Response Team:

US Department of Transportation Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration Preparedness & Response:

How to use the Emergency Response Guide Video:

NIOSH Publications Order Forms:

NIOSH Databases:

Environment, Health and Safety Online:

Related Pages:

Emergency Planning, Management, and Response

Hazardous Waste and Emergency Response Training Requirements

Oil Spill Prevention

Oil Spill Response

For more information, please contact:
Todd Barnell, Program Manager
Tel: 928/523-3840
Email: Todd.Barnell@nau.edu

Jennifer Williams, Alaska Program Coordinator, Sr.
Tel: 928/523-0673
Email: Jennifer.Williams@nau.edu

« Hazardous Substances Map

Last updated: July 10, 2015


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Northern Arizona University, South San Francisco Street, Flagstaff, Arizona 86011