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Hazardous Materials in Earthquakes

March 17, 2014

By their very nature, hazardous materials are dangerous. They’re not labeled so frivolously or by chance. But when you combine hazardous materials with catastrophic events, the potential for danger – and tragedy – is far greater.

One such “catastrophic event” is an earthquake. Earthquakes can cause intense ground shaking, liquefaction of sands or other granular materials, fault or surface ruptures, and flooding due to tsunamis – all of which can cause problems with hazardous materials. As we would hope, it’s possible that not all of these things would occur, or that their occurrence would not be very severe. But whether or not that level of calamity is imminent or even likely, it is important to be mindful of the possibilities it might entail.

Hazardous Material Dangers Caused By Earthquakes

A particularly alarming possibility is that of different failures leading ultimately to a release of hazardous materials. This could include:

  • The toppling of elevated tanks or overturning of horizontal tanks;
  • Structural failures;
  • Dislodging of asbestos;
  • Sloshing from open-topped containers;
  • Falling containers or shelves, especially in laboratories;
  • Storage container failures;
  • Both under- and above-ground pipeline breaks.

To complicate matters further, ground shaking isn’t the only predictable part of an earthquake. You can also expect shortages of emergency personnel and breakdowns in utilities, both instrumental in safely handling hazardous material releases.
Of course, no advice in the world can lead to earthquake prevention. It’s just an unfortunate and frightening aspect of living life on this planet – and an aspect we can’t control. But that doesn’t mean you have to just sit idly by, nor that you should (especially if you live and work somewhere prone to earthquakes.)
If you deal with hazardous materials, start with these tips.

  1. Educate yourself and your coworkers. If necessary, make employee participation mandatory.
  2. Be sure that you are using – and have used in the past – qualified, knowledgeable, and trustworthy design and engineering professionals.
  3. Routinely check buildings, equipment, and storage areas or containers for problems or vulnerabilities.
  4. Put together a plan for emergencies, and be sure that every employee has a copy (that they’ve read thoroughly).
  5. Practice good communication with local government and other businesses.

Providing you with expert information is just one of the ways Hazardous Waste Experts can help you. We can also provide assistance with handling your hazardous materials and help with hazardous waste disposal both before and after earthquakes. Call us today at 800-936-2311.

Photo Credit: e_lisewin via Compfight cc

Disposal of hazardous waste doesn’t have to be painful.