Yellowstone County, Montana
Disaster & Emergency Services
Preparation Tips: Hazardous Materials Contact Department

From industrial chemicals and toxic waste to household detergents and air fresheners, hazardous materials are part of our everyday lives.


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.

What To Do During a Hazardous Materials Incident:

  • If you witness (or smell) a hazardous materials accident, call 911, or the fire department as soon as safely possible.
  • If you hear a warning signal, listen to local radio or television stations for further information. Follow instructions carefully.
  • Stay away from the incident site to minimize the risk of contamination.
  • If you are caught outside during an incident, try to stay upstream, uphill and upwind. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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 in your home.
  • If you are requested to stay indoors (shelter-in-place) rather than evacuate; 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.
  • Schools and other public buildings may develop procedures to shelter in place. If there is a hazardous materials incident and your children are at school, the doors will probably be locked to keep your children safe. Follow directions of your local emergency officials.
  • 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 sleeve shirts.
  • Do not eat or drink food or water that may have been contaminated.
  • If indoors, fill the bathtub (first sterilize it with 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.


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