Hazardous materials response refers to emergency services and procedures used when there are incidents involving certain regulated items. Due to the risks that hazardous materials (HAZMAT) pose, these items cannot be handled in the same manner as common materials. Whether incidents are handled by trained staff members or HAZMAT professionals, their actions should be swift and effective.
For good reason, hazardous materials are usually fully or partially government regulated. Items that are classified in this category can pose risks to human health, animal welfare, and the environment. This is why a substantial amount of effort is often expended to outline regulations regarding the production, use, storage, and disposal of HAZMAT. Despite the best efforts, however, sometimes accidents occur, such as leaks, spills, and contamination.
In some instances, hazardous materials response consists of procedures that have been outlined to deal with potentially dangerous accidents. Pre-existing measures of this nature are most common in industrial and manufacturing industries where the use of such materials and the chances of mishap are high. Response procedures require swift, focused action that can contain, control, and eliminate the problem.
Whether or not a select group of individuals are taught the necessary tactics and are called upon in the event of a problem varies from one business to another. It may be possible for staff members to respond to minor HAZMAT incidents without being particularly assigned to do so. More complex matters generally require individuals specially trained for hazardous material response.
These individuals may not be on-site staff members. Special services are often commissioned to handle HAZMAT problems. These services are usually provided by individuals who work for third parties which specialize in hazardous materials response. People employed in this capacity are usually certified. Like police or fire personnel, these individuals are generally on-call, meaning they are ready to act when there is an incident.
Hazardous materials response teams are also employed for intentional incidents. Sometimes instead of an incident being accidental, it can be initiated to sabotage or with the intent to harm a person. Government agencies often maintain teams of professionals for such occurrences, although it is possible that third parties may be commissioned.
Hazardous materials response is often costly. This is especially true when the services of third parties are utilized. In many cases, hazardous materials response is not the final step in the process. This must be followed by remediation, which are techniques that aim to restore something as close as possible to its original state. This may be even more costly.