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How to handle hazmat incidents

Learn what to do and whom to call in case of a chemical or hazardous-waste spill.

By Matt Watson

January 14, 2019

Caution tapeA hazardous-material incident may occur at any time on campus or near campus through an industrial accident at a local business or transportation of chemicals nearby via railroad, road, airway or waterway.

Response to a hazardous-material incident will vary according to the location, quantity, chemical involved, time of day, day of the week and weather conditions. But in serious cases, employees should call the Auraria Campus Police Department at 303-556-5000 on a cellphone or 911 from a campus telephone.

You can also call Metropolitan State University of Denver’s environmental and emergency preparedness manager, Mark Pokorny, at 303-913-5555.

Faculty and staff have several responsibilities regarding hazmat incidents:

  • Know the location, effects and first-aid treatment for all chemicals stored on campus that are part of your program or curriculum.
  • Report suspicious or unusual odors to the Auraria Campus Police Department.
  • Locate ill or injured people, and alert the Auraria Campus Police Department to their location and needs.
  • Be aware that contamination can be spread by physical contact or contact with clothing and equipment.
  • Faculty should account for all students if possible.

Directives given by the police may include shelter-in-place and/or evacuation. Shelter-in-place should be given first consideration if the facility provides protection from the chemical involved. 

Do not walk into or touch spilled materials, and don’t handle empty containers because they may still present hazards until they are cleaned and purged of all residue. Avoid inhalation of fumes, smoke and vapors, even if no dangerous materials are known to be involved, and don’t assume gases or vapors are harmless because of lack of a smell.

Do not attempt to enter an area contaminated with toxic materials or vapors without proper training and equipment. This applies to rescue attempts. If hazardous materials are airborne, evacuate under emergency conditions, out of the path of prevailing winds.

For more information, visit MSU Denver’s Environmental Health webpage and Chemical Hygiene Plan.


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