Hazardous Materials

Adams County Facts

Adams County has many risks associated with hazardous materials. Commerce City and the surrounding area are the main industrial area for Metro Denver. The manufacturing, transporting, and processing of these industrial and even household chemicals provides a strong economic base for the area but also pose a potential hazard.

Adams County has a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) which collects information about hazardous materials in the community and makes this information available to the public upon request. LEPCs are tasked with developing and maintaining an emergency plan to prepare for and respond to chemical emergencies in the county. To learn more about the Adams County LEPC please click, Adams LEPC.

What are Hazardous Materials?

Hazardous materials, also referred to as HAZMAT, are chemical substances that if released or misused can pose a threat to the environment or health. Hazardous materials can be found in homes, transportation, business, and industry. Examples of these materials include: ammonia, propane, battery acid, natural gas, home cleaners, lawn fertilizers or farm agricultural chemical, chlorine, and many other products.

Hazards and Concerns

Hazardous Materials are a part of our daily lives. They are under our sinks at home, help run our car; create the plastics we use, etc. But these chemicals if not used correctly or worked with safely can be severely dangerous to your health. You can help to mitigate the hazardous materials affects in Adams County by ensuring you properly dispose of household hazardous chemicals. For more information on household chemical disposal, please visit www.tchd.org. The characteristics of hazardous chemicals are known to have one or more of the following traits: ignitability (i.e. flammable), reactivity, corrosivity, or toxicity. These characteristics can be dangerous to humans through the inhalation of noxious gases, contact with skin, absorption through moisture ducts (i.e. eyes), radiation exposure, and explosions.  As in most disasters, these emergencies are often accidental and hard to predict. That it is why it is important for you to know what your options are in a hazardous materials disaster.

What to do in a Hazardous Materials emergency?

In the event of a hazmat emergency, authorities (i.e. police, firefighter, or other emergency personnel) may instruct you via reverse phone notification, radio, or knocking door to door to shelter-in-place or evacuate. If asked to shelter-in-place, this is not the same as sheltering against a tornado, but rather to take refuge in a small first floor interior room with few windows (instructions below). Evacuations are just as serious and should be treated with immediate compliance. If so, leave immediately and follow the exact evacuation route as instructed.

Hazardous Materials Safety Tips

Before: To prepare for a HAZMAT emergency, you should do the following:

  • Contact Adams County LEPC to find out more about chemical hazards and what needs to be done to minimize the risk to individuals and the community from these materials.  
  • The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family and your property from the effects of a hazardous materials incident:◦Build an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You should add plastic sheeting, duct tape and scissors to the kit in order be better prepared for a hazardous materials incident. You may want to prepare a portable kit and keep it in your car in case you are told to evacuate.
  • Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
  • Make a Family Shelter-in-Place Plan. Identify a room in which you could shelter-in-place for several hours. In hazardous materials incidents. The higher location is the better (i.e. second floor is preferred over a basement room). Storing sufficient duct tape and plastic to cover windows and vents in this room may be helpful.

During: Asked to evacuate:

  • Do so immediately.
  • Stay tuned to a radio or television for information on evacuation routes, temporary shelters, and procedures.
  • Follow the routes recommended by the authorities--shortcuts may not be safe. Leave at once.
  • If you have time, minimize contamination in the house by closing all windows, shutting all vents, and turning off attic fans.
  • Take pre-assembled disaster supplies.
  • •Remember to help your neighbors who may require special assistance--infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs.

Requested to stay indoors (shelter-in-place):

  • Bring pets inside.
  • 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, set 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. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
  • Ten square feet of floor space per person will provide sufficient air to prevent carbon dioxide build-up for up to five hours, assuming a normal breathing rate while resting.
  • Seal gaps under doorways and windows with wet towels or plastic sheeting and duct tape.
  • Seal gaps around window and air conditioning units, bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans, and stove and dryer vents with duct tape and plastic sheeting, wax paper or aluminum wrap.
  • Use material to fill cracks and holes in the room, such as those around pipes.
  • If gas or vapors could have entered the building, take shallow breaths through a cloth or a towel. Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.
  • However, local officials are unlikely to recommend the public shelter in a sealed room for more than 2-3 hours because the effectiveness of such sheltering diminishes with time as the contaminated outside air gradually seeps into the shelter. At this point, evacuation from the area is the better protective action to take.
  • Also you should ventilate the shelter when the emergency has passed to avoid breathing contaminated air still inside the shelter.

Caught outside:

  • Stay upstream, uphill, and upwind! In general, try to go at least one-half mile (usually 8-10 city blocks) from the danger area. Move away from the accident scene and help keep others away.
  • Do not walk into or touch any spilled liquids, airborne mists, or condensed solid chemical deposits. Try not to inhale gases, fumes and smoke. If possible, cover mouth with a cloth while leaving the area.
  • Stay away from accident victims until the hazardous material has been identified.

In a motor vehicle:

  • :Stop and seek shelter in a permanent building. If you must remain in your car, keep car windows and vents closed and shut off the air conditioner and heater.

After: The following are guidelines for the period following a hazardous materials incident:

  • Act quickly if you have come in to contact with or have been exposed to hazardous chemicals.
  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities. 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.
  • 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 to contact with you that you may have been exposed to a toxic substance.
  • Listen to local radio or television stations for the latest emergency information.
  • Help a neighbor who may require special assistance - infants, elderly people and people with access and functional needs. People who care for them or who have large families may need additional assistance in emergency situations.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.
  • Find out from local authorities how to clean up your land and property.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local emergency services office.

To see the full list of disaster preparedness tips, please visit www.ready.gov/hazardous-materials-incidents.