Hazardous materials incidents can be very dangerous. Here is what you should do if you are ever involved in one. As for any disaster, have a plan and preparedness kit ready for your family.
Stay Tuned to the Hazards Weather Radio, Local television, or Local Radio
Since each hazardous materials incident is truly unique, there aren't any hard-and-fast rules for how to react. As a citizen you want to stay informed of the situation by listening for instructions from local emergency services given over the Emergency Alert System (EAS), which includes NOAA All-Hazards Weather Radio, Bresnan cable television, 95.3 FM KZJH, and 96.9 FM KMTN.
Have Materials Ready to Shelter in Place
With many hazardous materials incidents, the safest place for the public is in their homes. This reduces exposure to harmful chemicals and decreases the number of people that need to go through extensive decontamination. It has been found that a well-weatherproofed home is actually the best defense against any type of hazardous substance outside. Depending on the incident, you may be asked to take further precautions.
Stay Upwind, Uphill, & Upstream
This will reduce your exposure to the hazardous chemicals. Remember the hazardous materials "rule of thumb": if you can't cover the entire incident up by holding your thumb out in front of you at arm's length, you're too close!
Do Not Attempt a Rescue
Do not attempt to rescue someone who has been exposed to a hazardous material if you haven't been exposed. Safety first. If you can help without risking exposure to yourself, or if you have already been exposed, you can try to help those around you. Otherwise, the best thing that you can do is to keep everyone who has been exposed in a centrally located area so they can be quickly and efficiently decontaminated when emergency services arrive.
Do Not Spread the Contamination
If you are exposed to hazardous materials, do not spread the contamination. You can greatly reduce the spread of contaminants by not leaving the scene. Many people's first reaction is to run away, but as people scatter they spread the hazardous materials and it makes it difficult to get everyone decontaminated. Stay put, because you don't want to contaminate your friends or family by returning home without first being properly decontaminated. While awaiting emergency services, remove all clothing.
If you are in your vehicle, get to a permanent structure for shelter. If you must remain in your vehicle, shut all vents and turn off all heat and air conditioning.