Haz Mat

Key Points

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation collects data on hazardous materials incidents occurring in the United States during transportation. Most are received from shippers, e.g., United States Postal Service or Federal Express. Since 1998, United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) has recorded 545 incidents in Seattle resulting in total of $1,316,452 in damage, but no fatalities or injuries requiring hospitalization. Nine incidents were classified as serious.

  • The Seattle Fire Department records hazardous materials-related dispatches. It lists 1,086 incidents since 1995, with a sharp spike in 2001-2003 following 9/11 and the 2001 anthrax attack. A rough measure of severity is the recorded alarm level, which ranges from 1 to 3. Only three incidents were over level 1. Two were fires with hazmat components.

  • Fixed sites are the most frequent locations for accidents, but transportation accidents are often riskier because they happen in uncontained spaces and responders usually have less information about the materials involved.

  • Areas up to one-half mile downwind from an accident site are considered vulnerable, according the USDOT. An incident could affect thousands of people in densely populated sections of Seattle.

  • Other disasters such as earthquakes and landslides could produce hazardous materials incidents.