Most households contain some “hazardous materials.” These are common, everyday products sold in the supermarket or hardware store. Used for their intended purpose under normal circumstances these items are safe, but they can cause injury or death in an earthquake.
If an earthquake spills these materials, your family could be injured or your home could be damaged or destroyed. This information will help you reduce the possible harm to your family and home from this kind of earthquake damage.
Recent California earthquakes caused these accidents:
Many paints, wood finishes, thinners, solvents, and cleaners can catch on fire easily. Gasoline and some liquids used for cars are found in garages or workspaces around the home. A spark, flame, or other heat source could start a fire with these materials if they hve been spilled or released by container breakage.
Some flammables can also cause harm if they are inhaled or are absorbed through the skin. Nerve damage, internal organ damage, or birth defects have been found in laboratory animals tested with some of these materials.
Flammables should be stored in proper containers and storage cabinets away from possible sparks, flames, and hot machinery. Pilot lights or electrical equipment which produces sparks or heat should be avoided. If possible, flammables should not be stored inside a home or apartment. A fire extinguisher should be readily available.
Cleaning and maintenance products like ammonia, bleach, drain cleaners, and pool chemicals can burn or damage skin or other body tissues. Eye damage can be a speical hazard of these products. When cleaning up spills, take protective actions: wear goggles, rubber gloves, proctective clothing or apron and long sleeves. Any skin contacted by these materials should be immediately flushed with large amounts of water.
Store ammonia and bleach separately because if they mix, toxic chlorine gas can be produced.
Pesticides and insecticides can cause injury or illness on contact with skin or when swallowed. Since the purpose of these materials is to kill living organisms they should be used with great care and stored so they are not released during an earthquake. Childproof latches or locked cabinets can keep these poisons from spilling during an earthquake.
For further information, contact your local fire department, health department, or office of emergency services. Obtain facts about a specific product from the manufacturer identified on the label.