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Emergency Response Guide: Hazardous Materials


A hazardous material is defined as a substance that can be harmful and dangerous to people, property, and the environment. In responding to a chemical spill, airborne release of some toxic matter, the response may vary from a relatively easy cleanup to a complex process that requires expert training, knowledge and experience, as well as specialized equipment. Successful containment may depend upon the location, the type of hazardous material involved, and the amount of the substance that has been released. Occasionally, accidents occur whereby the effects of spills and leaks can spread for miles through the air, sewer system, or waterways.

The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), as well as regulations issued by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), require first responders to be trained in dealing with hazardous materials.


  • Immediately dial 3540 or 718.636.3540, notify first responders—Fire, Police, EMS.
  • Provide the location of the hazardous material, type of terrain and the nature of the problem, i.e., fire, spill, leak, etc.
  • Do not try to clean up a hazardous materials spill, await the arrival of the first responders who are trained to handle this type of incident.
  • If possible, identify the hazardous material, carrier name, container size and type, as well as the amount released.
  • Secure and isolate the location without entering the hazard area.
  • Move away from the affected area (upwind).
  • If evacuation is not feasible, attempt to move indoors to a high elevation since many chemical agents are heavier than air and may remain closer to the ground.
  • Close building windows, doors and turn off the HVAC system.
  • If contact is made with chemical agent, immediately try to wash the affected area with warm soapy water.
  • Be sure all students, faculty, and staff have been alerted as to the status of the hazardous material and what their instructions are. Attend to those who may have disabilities or special needs.