Preparing for Hazardous Materials

As many as 500,000 products pose physical or health hazards and\can be defined as hazardous materials. Accidents involving toxic\substances have occurred in communities across the country.

Consumers can protect themselves against injuries from hazardous materials by using, storing and disposing of the material in the proper manner. For example, motor oil seems a safe enough product when used properly. However, if one gallon of used motor oil is poured on the ground it can contaminate as much as a million gallons of groundwater, an amount equal to approximately one year's drinking water for over 50 people.

Tips for Your Safety

  • If any chemical product is ingested, call 9-1-1 immediately.
  • Keep all hazardous substances out of the reach of children and pets.
  • DO NOT mix chemicals. Many household products are incompatible, such as bleach and household cleaners, and can cause serious injury.
  • Store hazardous materials in a cool, dry, well ventilated area.
  • DO NOT remove household substances from their original containers.
  • Check the substance for expiration date.
  • Carefully read the product label and directions before using.
  • Use the products in the manner the manufacturer intended. For example, misapplication of oven and drain cleaners may cause irreparable eye damage.


Following a hazardous materials spill, you may be given directions from the authorities to either evacuate the area or "Shelter-in-Place." If the order is evacuation, do so immediately, carefully following directions. Do not wonder about, know where you are going, and how to get there. Don't forget your disaster supply kit. If the order is to remain in your home, office or school, you will need the following directions for "Shelter-in-Place."

  • Move or stay inside.
  • Close all windows and doors.
  • Turn off ventilation systems (fans, heating- and air-conditioning systems, fireplace dampers, etc.).
  • Go into a room and seal the room. Choose a room with the fewest doors and windows.
  • Dampen towels and place in the crack under the door.
  • Cut plastic sheeting to fit over the windows and vents. Secure the plastic in place with duck tape.
  • Tape around the door.
  • Turn on the radio.
  • Stay in the room until told it is safe for you to come out.

For more information , review the Shelter-in-Place flyer (PDF)

© Copyright 2014 Washington Military Department - Emergency Management Division
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