Hazardous Materials


Manufacturers, service providers and homeowners routinely use chemicals and other materials to improve our lives. However, these items can cause damage to buildings or the environment and physical harm to humans or animals if produced, used, transported, stored or disposed of improperly.

Emergencies occur when these materials are released in ways that can harm public health. Whether this release is accidental or intentional, quick response by members of the community can lessen their impact.

When encountering hazardous materials, it is best to follow the RAIN principle:
R – Recognize the hazard or threat (what do you see, smell, or hear)
A – Avoid the hazard (stay away to minimize opportunities for injury or exposure)
I – Isolate the area (reduce exposure to the hazard by removing others from the area)
N – Notify authorities (contact an appropriate organization so that they may respond)

The St. Charles County Division of Emergency Management has developed a plan in coordination with area first response agencies that will respond to incidents involving the release of hazardous materials. Detailed instructions relating to this plan will be distributed through local media, websites and other means at the time of an event.
Hazardous Material response exercise
What Can Residents Do?

A portion of this response plan requires cooperation and immediate action by area residents. The details will call for one of two options, and in some cases, a combination of the two:
  1. Advice to “Shelter-in-Place
  2. Evacuation from an exposed area

Types of Hazardous Materials

Hazardous materials are typically categorized by the type of chemical or the effect they may have on those exposed to it. These categories include:

  • Biotoxins – poisons made from plants or animals
  • Blister agents – materials that severely blister skin, eyes or the respiratory tract upon contact
  • Blood and body agents – poisons that are absorbed into the bloodstream or other areas of the body
  • Caustics – chemicals, acids and other corrosive material that burn or corrode skin, eyes or mucous membranes upon contact
  • Lung/Pulmonary agents – chemicals that irritate the linings or the nose, throat or lungs
  • Incapacitating agents – materials that cause an altered state of consciousness or unconsciousness
  • Anticoagulants – poisons that prevent the blood from clotting properly or uncontrolled bleeding
  • Metals – agents consisting of metallic poisons
  • Nerve agents – chemicals that prevent the nervous system from working properly
  • Organic solvents – materials that damage the tissue of living things
  • Radioactive materials – solids, liquids or gasses with unstable atoms that emit radiation energy
  • Toxic alcohols – poisonous alcohols that damage the heart, kidneys or nervous system
  • Vomiting agents – chemicals causing nausea or vomiting