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Industrial / Technological Emergencies

Hazardous materials

Hazardous materials are substances that if released or misused can pose a threat to the environment or public health. Because hazardous materials are transported on our roadways, railways, waterways, and pipelines every day, a hazardous material incident can happen anywhere and you need to be prepared in case an incident occurs near you.

Chemical manufacturers are one source of hazardous materials, but there are many others, including service stations, hospitals, and hazardous materials waste sites. Many hazardous materials do not have any odor, and may only be detected once physical symptoms like watering eyes or nausea occur. Some hazardous materials can cause death, serious injury, long-lasting health effects, and damage to buildings and property.

Chemical Spill in Cheswold, DE.

During an event

  • Listen to local radio or television stations for detailed information and instructions.
  • If you witness a hazardous materials incident, spill, leak, or explosion, call 911, your local emergency number, or the fire department as soon as possible. Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne mist, or condensed solid deposit.
  • Stay away from the incident area to minimize the risk of contamination.
  • If you are caught outside during an incident, try to stay upstream, uphill, and upwind. Hazardous materials can be transported quickly by water and wind.
  • In general, try to go at least one-half mile (10 city blocks) from the incident area.
  • If you are in a 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.
  • If you are told to evacuate, do so immediately.
  • If you are requested to stay indoors or shelter-in-place:
    • 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 a pre-selected shelter room. This room should be above ground and have the fewest openings to the outside.
    • Seal the room by covering each window, door, and vent using plastic sheeting and duct tape. Use material to fill cracks and holes in the room, such as those around pipes.
  • Keep your body fully covered and wear gloves, socks, and shoes even though these measures may offer minimal protection. Act quickly if you have come into contact with or have been exposed to hazardous materials.
  • Avoid eating or drinking any food or water that may be contaminated.
  • Return home only when authorities say it is safe. Open windows and vents and turn on fans to provide ventilation.

Nuclear power

Nuclear power plants use the heat generated from nuclear fission in a contained environment to convert water to steam, which powers generators to produce electricity. Although the construction and operation of these facilities are closely monitored and regulated by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), incidents are possible. An incident could result in dangerous levels of radiation that could affect the health and safety of the public living near the nuclear power plant. Although the risk of an incident is slight, knowing how to react during an emergency can reduce the risk of injury. Delaware’s borders are within 50 miles of four nuclear power plant sites: Salem/Hope Creek, NJ; Calvert Cliffs, MD; Peachbottom, PA; and Limerick, PA

Salem/Hope Creek Nuclear Generating Station on the Delaware River

During an event

  • If an accident at a nuclear power plant were to release radiation in your area, local authorities would activate warning sirens or another approved alert method. They also would instruct you through the Emergency Alert System (EAS) radio stations on how to protect yourself.
  • Follow directions of emergency management officials.
  • Take cover immediately, as far below ground as possible. Close windows and doors, turn off air conditioners, heaters, or other ventilation systems. Stay where you are, watch TV, listen to the radio, or check the Internet for official news as it becomes available.
  • Remember three key ways to minimize your exposure to radiation: distance, shielding, and time.
    • Distance — The more distance between you and the source of the radiation, the better. Maximizing distance could mean evacuation or remaining indoors to minimize exposure. Follow instructions from emergency management officials.
    • Shielding — Having a thick shield of heavy, dense material between you and the source of the radiation will help reduce your exposure to the radiation.
    • Time — Most radioactivity loses its strength fairly quickly. Minimizing time spent exposed will also help reduce your risk.
  • Keep food in covered containers or in the refrigerator. Food not previously covered should be washed before being put in to containers.
  • If you expect you have been exposed to nuclear radiation:
    • Change clothes and shoes.
    • Put exposed clothing in a plastic bag.
    • Seal the bag and place it out of the way.
    • Take a thorough shower.
    • Seek medical attention as directed by emergency management officials.

Familiarize yourself with the terms

  • Notification of Unusual Event: A small problem has occurred at the plant. No radiation leak is expected. No action on your part will be necessary.
  • Alert: A small problem has occurred, and small amounts of radiation could leak inside the plant. This will not affect you and no action is required.
  • Site Area Emergency: Area sirens may be sounded. Listen to your radio or television for safety information.
  • General Emergency: Radiation could leak outside the plant and off the plant site. The sirens will sound. Tune to your local radio or television station for reports. Be prepared to follow instructions promptly.

Preparing your home

  • Familiarize yourself with the warning and alert systems of your local community. Local Delaware radio stations are available on our Stay Informed page.
  • Familiarize yourself with the Delaware Emergency Response Plan Areas (ERPAs).