Technological Disasters


Back to Hazards Directory 

Deep Water Horizon

Today’s world is full of chemicals; we use them daily at work and at home. Although these chemicals make our lives easier, they also represent a potential hazard. Hazardous materials travel through our County daily via automobiles, tanker trucks, and trains. This could include anything from gasoline or explosives to toxic waste. The following tips will help you prevent a hazardous material incident and teach you what to do should one occur at home, work, school, or while traveling.




Before a Hazardous Material Spill Occurs:

  • Have at least a 5 day Disaster Supplies Kit assembled.
  • Create a shelter-in-place plan.
  • Create an evacuation plan.
  • Purchase a NOAA Weather Radio to monitor air conditions.
  • If you do not have a weather radio, stay tuned to a local radio or television station.
  • Learn the early warning systems available in Palm Beach County.
  • Learn about proper storage and disposal of household hazardous materials.
Hazardous Materials Spill

What to Do in a Hazardous Material Incident:

  • Avoid contact with any spilled liquid materials, airborne mist, or solid chemical deposit.
  • If you come upon a hazardous material spill, stay up wind and up stream from it.
  • Keep your body fully covered and wear gloves for protection.
  • Do not eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
  • Do not allow your pet to eat or drink any food or water that may have been contaminated.
  • Rely on and follow the instructions of your local authorities.
  • Listen to a local radio or television station for instructions.
  • You may be instructed to “shelter-in-place.”
  • If you are instructed to evacuate, stay calm and follow the instructions of local authorities.

If You Come in Contact with or Have Been Exposed to Hazardous Materials:

  • Follow decontamination instructions from local authorities.
  • Depending on the chemical, you may be advised to take a thorough shower, or you may be advised to stay away from water and follow another procedure.
  • Seek medical treatment for unusual symptoms as soon as possible.
  • Remember that gases and mists are generally heavier than air, and hazardous materials can quickly be transported by wind and water. In general, try to get at least one-half mile away from the release.
  • If you are in a motor vehicle, stop and find shelter in a permanent building if possible.
  • If you must remain in your car, keep windows up, vents closed and shut off air conditioning and heat.
  • If asked to evacuate your home, do so immediately. Take your animals with you, but do not endanger yourself to do so.
  • If you are told that you have time, close all windows, shut vents, and turn off attic heating and air-conditioning fans to minimize contamination.
  • Report any lingering vapors or other hazards to your local authorities.
Household Chemicals

Household Hazardous Materials Safety

Chemicals are a part of our everyday life. These products include, but are not limited to pesticides, cleaning products, solvents, pool chemicals, paint, used oil, and propane cylinders. Almost every home has some type of chemical product that can be hazardous if not used, stored, or disposed of properly. When these products are no longer needed or usable we refer to them as "Household Hazardous Waste", or HHW for short. Anywhere along the disposal route HHW can present a threat to the public, solid waste workers, and the environment if not properly disposed. Residents are encouraged to separate HHW from their household garbage and dispose of it at an appropriate facility.

When purchasing potential household hazardous materials:

  • Think small. Use the correct amount of product recommended.
  • Twice as much is not twice as effective and may be twice as toxic!
  • Purchase only the amount that you will use. Consider splitting products with a neighbor.
  • Purchase the least toxic product available. Avoid aerosols if possible.
  • If you do not use it all, dispose of it or store it properly, keeping it out of landfills.
  • Never dump on the ground, in the gutters, or in the sewer system. This can result in pollution of surface and groundwater, wildlife habitat, as well as kill the active bacteria in wastewater processes.
  • Follow all directions on the product, including use of all recommended Personal Protective Equipment (PPE).
  • The Solid Waste Authority oversees Palm Beach County's Household Hazardous Waste (HHW) program, and can be reached at 561-697-2700 or

If you must store materials:

  • Follow all directions closely.
  • Never mix chemicals.
  • Store in original containers, away from small children and pets.
  • Always use in a well-ventilated area.

If a spill should occur:

  • Follow clean up recommendations on the label – read these prior to using the product.
  • If you are unsure if it is safe, evacuate the area and call 9-1-1.
Technological Disasters

Radiological Incident

The Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management (DEM) is responsible for the County’s overall preparedness in the event of an incident that results in the release or deposition of radiological contaminants within Palm Beach County. Our primary concern is protecting the health and safety of the public. Although the potential for a radiological incident affecting the health and safety of the public is extremely remote, we have taken a proactive position to ensure public welfare. We regularly test and evaluate our preparedness for a radiological incident at the St. Lucie Nuclear Power Plant, in transportation accidents and the actions of a terrorist.

Radiological Exercise February 2006

In the unlikely event of a radiological incident, Palm Beach County is prepared with state-of-the-art equipment and highly skilled/trained personnel in fire/rescue, emergency medical services, law enforcement and local medical facilities to swiftly deal with the incident. In any radiological incident the DEM will activate the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) and coordinate with other local/municipal, state and federal authorities. The public will also be notified immediately via radio, television, and the County’s Dialogic notification system that can call residents and businesses in any affected areas within the County. The Emergency Information Center will also be activated to handle calls from individuals and businesses with questions, or needing instructions on what to do.

Power Outages

A power outage can occur any time of the year. The affected area may be countywide, specific to a few blocks, or restricted to your own home. Power outages can occur due to rolling blackouts, extreme weather conditions, a traffic accident involving a power pole, or can accompany other disasters such as flooding or hurricanes. Remember to always assume that any downed power line is live (energized).

Having a back-up generator can help power medical devices and other appliances. For further information on the benefits and dangers of a generator, contact a licensed electrician or a professional generator sales associate.


Try to keep some amount of cash on hand. Without power, credit cards and ATM’s will not work!

If there is no power in your neighborhood:

  • For information on power outages contact your local gas or electric provider. Do not call 9-1-1.
  • Do call 9-1-1 for emergency situations or if any type of fire has occurred.
  • Check on your neighbors.
  • Turn off and unplug appliances and computers.
  • Leave one light on to indicate when power has been restored.
  • Avoid using candles, as they are fire hazards.
  • Do not use a gas stove for heating or operate generators indoors (including the garage). Both could cause carbon monoxide poisoning.
  • If a traffic signal is not working, treat it as a stop sign.
  • Limit opening of the refrigerator and freezer while the power is off. A general rule is that food in the refrigerator is good for at least a couple hours and about a day for food in the freezer.
  • Make sure you and your family members know the locations of your flashlights and extra batteries, even in the dark.
  • Do not use gas grills or any type of outdoor grill indoors to heat food inside.
  • Remember to drink plenty of water.
  • Try to stay on the lowest floor possible in summer because heat rises and may affect you more quickly.
  • Always keep the gas tank in your car at least half full. A lot of people forget that if there is no power, many gas pumps are not able to pump gas.