Haz Mat

Key Points

  • The 1984 disaster in Bhopal, India that killed over 2,200 people focused world-wide attention on the dangers of toxic chemical releases. In the U.S., it led to the 1986 Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act or SARA Title III. This law led to a lot of new planning and response infrastructure.

  • The U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) collects data on hazardous materials incidents occurring in the U.S. during transportation.448 Most are received from shippers, e.g., UPS or Federal Express. Since 1998, 838 hazardous materials incidents in Seattle resulting in total of $3,056,573 in damage, but no fatalities or injuries requiring hospitalization. There have been 13 injuries not requiring hospitalization and 15 incidents were classified as serious.

  • The Seattle Fire Department (SFD) records hazardous materials-related dispatches. It lists 1,243 incidents from 1995 to 2017, with a spike in 2001 following 9/11 and the 2001 anthrax attack. Forty-four incidents were fires with hazardous materials components.

  • Fixed sites are the most frequent locations for accidents, but transportation accidents are often riskier because they happen in uncontained spaces, they can be in close proximity to people, 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 US DOT. An incident could affect thousands of people in densely populated sections of Seattle.

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