According to the Federal Highway Administration, millions of tons of flammable, corrosive, poisonous, and radioactive materials are transported daily across the U.S. Without much attention from the general public, the majority of hazardous materials cargoes arrive safely at their destinations. However, incidents do occur and occasionally there are serious threats to life or property.
A hazardous materials cargo spill is a release of a substance or material capable of posing an unreasonable risk to health, safety, or property when transported for commercial purposes. Unlike a vehicular fluid spill, a multitude of factors dictate the size and nature of the spill, including the type of material being transported, the original load size, the physical properties of the material, and the amount of damage to the transporting vessel.
Emergency planning procedures for carriers of spilled hazardous material should, at a minimum, include the following:
- If a problem is suspected, pull the vehicle off the road and stop away from populated areas.
- If vehicle must be stopped on or near the roadway, place warning devices (use hazard signs and 4-way flashers).
- Do not move the vehicle. If the vehicle must be left unattended, leave it in gear and use the hand brake and chocks.
- Retrieve shipping papers and keep them with you.
- Check for injured parties/administer first aid if possible.
- If appropriate per training standards, take steps to prevent fire, isolate sources of ignition, and prevent additional release of hazardous material(s).
The following Department of Transportation chart represents the number of incidents by DOT Hazard Classification from 2002 through 2007.
For tips and best practices on designing a crisis management program, download Tips for Effective Exercises.