4800 West 92nd Avenue Westminster, CO 80031



Hazmat Incidents

From industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives.  Affecting urban, suburban and rural areas, hazardous materials incidents can range from a chemical spill on a highway to groundwater contamination by naturally occurring methane gas.
Hazardous materials are substances that, because of their chemical nature, pose a potential risk to life, health or property if they are released.  Hazards can exist during production, storage, transportation, use or disposal.

Chemical plants are one source of hazardous materials, but there are many others.  Your local service station stores gasoline and diesel fuel, hospitals store a range of radioactive and flammable materials, and there are about 30,000 hazardous materials waste sites in the country.

The City of Westminster works with the Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC's) for Adams and Jefferson Counties that identify industrial hazardous materials and keep the community informed of the potential risk.  All companies that have hazardous chemicals must report annually to the LEPC.

What to do before a hazardous materials incident

  1. The City of Westminster uses the following warning systems to alert the public:
    • Emergency Alert System (EAS) - Otherwise known as "Reverse 911".
    • News media-Radio, television and cable.
    • Residential route alerting-Messages announced to neighborhoods from vehicles equipped with public address systems.
  2. Use the information gathered from LEPC and the emergency management office to evaluate risks to your household.  Determine how close you are to factories, freeways, or railroads that may produce or transport toxic waste.
  3. Be prepared to evacuate.  An evacuation could last for a few hours or several days.  See the "Evacuation" and "Emergency Planning and Disaster Supplies" chapters for important information.
  4. Be prepared to shelter-in-place; that is, to seek safety in your home or any other building you might be in at the time of a chemical release. At home you should select a room to be used as a shelter. The shelter room for use in case of a hazardous material incident should be above ground, large enough to accommodate all household members and pets, and should have the fewest possible exterior doors and windows.  You should also assemble a shelter kit to be used to seal the shelter room during a chemical release. The kit should include plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, a towel, and modeling clay or other material to stuff into cracks.

What to do during a hazardous materials incident

  1. If you witness (or smell) a hazardous materials accident, call 911as soon as safely possible.
  2. If you receive a "reverse 911 phone call follow instructions carefully.
  3. Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of contamination.
  4. If you are caught outside during an incident, remember that gases and mists are generally heavier than air.  Try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind-hazardous materials can quickly be transported by water and wind.  In general, try to go at least one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the danger area; for many incidents you will need to go much further.
  5. If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and seek shelter in a permanent building if possible. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows  and vents closed and shut off  the air conditioner and heater. 
  6. If asked to evacuate your home, do so immediately.
    • If authorities indicate there is enough time, close all windows, shut vents and turn off attic, heating and air conditioning fans to minimize contamination.
    • See the evacuation page linked at the right for more information.
  7. If you are requested to stay indoors (shelter-in-place) rather than evacuate:
    • Follow all instructions given by emergency authorities.
    • Get household members and pets inside as quickly as possible.
    • Close and lock all exterior doors and windows. Close vents, fireplace dampers and as many interior doors as possible.
    • Turn off air conditioners and ventilation systems. In large buildings, building superintendents should set all ventilation systems to 100 percent recirculation so that no outside air is drawn into the building. If this is not possible, ventilation systems should be turned off.
    • Go into the pre-selected shelter room (the above-ground room with the fewest openings to the outside). Take a battery-powered radio, water, sanitary supplies, a flashlight, and the shelter kit containing plastic sheeting, duct tape, scissors, a towel, and modeling clay or other materials to stuff into cracks.
    • Close doors and windows in  the room. Stuff a towel tightly under each door and tape around the sides and top of the door. Cover each window and vent in the room with a single piece of plastic sheeting, taping all around the edges of the sheeting to provide a continuous seal. If there are any cracks or holes in the room, such as those around pipes entering a bathroom, fill them with modeling clay or other similar material.
    • Remain in the room, listening to emergency broadcasts on the radio, until authorities advise you to leave your shelter.
    • If authorities warn of the possibility of an outdoor explosion, close all drapes, curtains, and shades in the room. Stay away from windows to prevent injury from breaking glass.
    • When authorities advise people in your area to leave their shelters, open all doors and windows and turn on air conditioning and ventilation systems. These measures will flush out any chemicals that infiltrated into the building.
    • See the "Shelter" chapter for more information.
  8. Schools and other public buildings may institute procedures to shelter  in place. If there is a hazardous materials incident and your children are at school, you will probably not be permitted to drive to the school to pick up your children. Even if you go to the school, the doors will probably be locked to keep your children safe. Follow the directions of your local emergency officials.  
  9. Avoid contact with spilled liquids, airborne mists or condensed solid chemical deposits.  Keep your body fully covered to provide some protection.  Wear gloves, socks, shoes, pants and long sleeved shirts.
  10. Do not eat or drink food or water that may have been contaminated.
  11. If indoors, fill the bathtub (first sterilize it with a diluted bleach solution-one part bleach to ten parts water) and large containers with water for drinking, cooking, and dishwashing.  Be prepared to turn off the main water intake valve in case authorities advise you to do so.

What to do after an incident

  1. Do not return home until local authorities say it is safe.
  2. Upon returning home, open windows, vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  3. A person or item that has been exposed to a hazardous chemical may be contaminated and could contaminate other people or items.  If you have come in contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals, you should:
    • Follow decontamination instructions from 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.
    • If medical help is not immediately available and you think you might be contaminated, remove all of your clothing and shower thoroughly (unless local authorities say the chemical is water reactive and advise you to do otherwise).  Change into fresh, loose clothing and seek medical help as soon as possible.
    • Place exposed clothing and shoes in tightly sealed containers.  Do not allow them to contact other materials.  Call local authorities to find out about proper disposal.
    • Advise everyone who comes in contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  4. Find out from authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  5. Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to police or fire officials.

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