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Thurston County, Washington

Emergency Management

Hazardous materials come in many forms and are widely stored and transported in a variety of settings including homes, businesses, schools and many private industries in both small and large quantities. Some common classifications of hazardous materials include toxic chemicals, biological materials, radioactive materials, explosives and flammable liquids and gases.

Hazardous materials releases can occur as a result of accidents, natural disasters, or intentional acts. These releases can pose significant threats to people, property, and the environment, as many of these materials pose significant health hazards and physical hazards.

Some Common Risks and Hazards

  • Toxicity: many hazardous materials are toxic and can cause serious immediate and long-term health effects if ingested, inhaled, or absorbed through the skin.
  • Fire and Explosion: many hazardous materials are flammable or explosive and can cause fires or large explosions if they come into contact with an ignition source.
  • Environmental Contamination: hazardous materials releases can contaminate waterways and soil, posing risks to plants, animals and the environment.

What to do in the Event of a Chemical Release

  • Evacuate immediately if able, preferably to a location upwind and uphill.
  • When safe to do so, call 9-1-1 and follow their instructions.
  • If you are unable to safely evacuate, shelter-in-place:
    • Find the nearest enclosed structure
    • Close all windows and doors
    • Turn off all ventilation systems
    • Go into a room with the fewest doors and windows and seal the room
    • Don't ventilate (air out) or leave your sealed shelter until told it is safe to do so.
  • If you think you may have been exposed to a hazardous material, taking off at least the outer layer of your clothing and sealing them in a plastic bag or similar container can help remove most of the contamination.
  • Without the proper personal protection equipment (PPE) and training, there is very little a volunteer can do to help victims in a contaminated environment. Use your best judgment and avoid rushing into a situation that will make you another victim. The best way you can help first responders is to follow their instructions and answer any questions you may know about the incident (description of the material, location and number of possible victims, and location and description of container, etc.).

Learn More About Thurston County's HAZMAT Response

Visit our Local Emergency Planning Committee page to learn more about the county's HAZMAT preparedness and response plans.