USFA Offers Residential Hazardous Materials Safety Tips

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, all of us have many products in our homes and garages that may be hazardous if used, stored or disposed of improperly. They may pose serious fire, health, or environmental hazards. If they are used, stored, and disposed of properly, however, they can be relatively safe.

With it's latest "Focus On Fire Safety," USFA is urging the public to familiarize itself with each product, its location, and purpose. More products are hazardous than you may think. Here are a few of the common ones:

  • Automotive fluids
  • Household cleaners
  • Laundry products
  • Health and beauty products
  • Lawn and garden products
  • Barbecue products
  • Home maintenance products

Proper storage and disposal of hazardous materials at home is extremely important. Due to increased public awareness of the dangers of hazardous materials, many communities in the United States now have designated household hazardous waste collection days or permanent collection facilities. Read the product's label to see if specific storage and disposal instructions are listed. If not, or if you are unsure about the proper storage or disposal of a product, contact the manufacturer or call your local government office.

  • To reduce the amount of hazardous materials in storage, buy only the amount that you need for the job at hand.
  • Store hazardous materials in their original containers. If the label is peeling off, reattach it with transparent tape.
  • Use proper storage containers for flammables and combustibles; buy products with safety closures whenever possible.
  • Store flammable products, such as gasoline, kerosene, propane gas, and paint thinner in containers away from the house.
  • Never store flammables in direct sunlight or near an open flame.
  • Because of flammability, store liquid pesticides containing containing a petroleum-based carrier or solvent in a garage in a locked cabinet.
  • Inspect storage areas regularly and be on the lookout for leaky containers, poor ventilation, and the smell of fumes.
  • Store hazardous materials out of the reach of children and pets.
  • Aerosol containers are pressurized products that sometimes contain flammable or poisonous chemicals. If you dispose of these pressurized containers in the trash, they can be punctured and explode. The can also start a fire. A can is empty and safe for disposal if you no longer hear air being released from the container.
  • If a household cleaner contains a solvent, do not dump it down the drain or put in the trash. It contains solvents if the label includes the words flammable, combustible, caution, warning, and danger or contains petroleum distillates or aromatic hydrocarbons.
  • Don’t store chemicals near food.

Recovery costs following a disaster are bad enough without adding clean up from contamination of hazardous materials in your home. Follow these tips to help prevent hazardous materials in and around your home from posing an added danger during a natural disaster.

  • Know how to shut off the gas supply in case of an emergency such as an earthquake or tornado.
  • Chain propane cylinders securely to prevent them from floating away during a flood situation.
  • Knowing how to shut off the gas outside at the meter can save your life during an emergency. Once you shut off the gas only the gas company should turn it back on!
  • A fuel tank should be secured to a cement slab to prevent it from tipping over or floating away during a flood. Elevate your tank to prevent damage to the valves if you are prone to frequent flooding.
  • Install flexible gas lines from cylinders or tanks to all gas and fuel appliances in your home.
  • Make sure free standing sheds, garages, and small barns where hazardous materials are stored are tied down securely to the ground. Reinforce double entry or garage doors.
  • Guardrails and safety locks on shelves and cabinets will help to prevent containers from tipping over and from falling out onto you.
  • Pay special attention to chemicals products when moving them from place to place. The same rules apply for proper transportation as they do for storage.

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