Hazardous Materials Incident

A hazardous materials incident may be a spill or release of chemicals, radioactive materials or biological materials inside a building or to the environment.  Simple spills maybe managed by trained person(s) or person(s) who are familiar with their departments spill protocol.  Major spills or emergencies are chemical spills or incidents requiring assistance from 24-hour emergency agencies, i.e. the Fire Department or Johnson County Hazardous Material (HAZMAT) Team.  The University does not have a fire department or HAZMAT Team.  

Simple Spill    

  • Does not spread rapidly.  
  • Does not endanger people.  
  • Does not endanger the environment, outside of the spill area  
  • Trained individual or an individual familiar with their spill protocol    

Major Spill or Emergency

  • Spreads rapidly.
  • Presents an inhalation hazard. Endangers people or environment.     
  • Involves a personal injury or rescue.
  • Must call 911 .

Additional information is available through the Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) website:  https://ehs.research.uiowa.edu/

Immediate Action

  • Simple spills should be cleaned up by the person causing the spill.  
  • Major spills or emergencies
    • Call 911
    • Evacuate, assemble at a safe distance
    • Account for individuals
    • Wait for and provide information to responders

 Notifications and Reporting

  • Incident involving any radioactive materials, notify:
    Radiation Protection Section in the Environmental Health and Safety Office at 335-8501 (for all hours)  
  • For a major chemical spill, notify:
    • Environmental Health and Safety at 335-8501 during business hours (M-F 8-12 a.m. and 1-5 p.m.)
    • University Police at 335-5022 during non-business hours  
  • An incident involving an oil spill, a release of hazardous material to the environment or beyond University boundaries, or asbestos inside a building or structure, notify:
    • Director Environmental Compliance and Senior Associate Counsel, at 335-6190, during business hours
    • University Police at 335-5022, after business hours 
    • Reports to Iowa Department of Natural Resources must be made as soon as possible and not later than six hours after discovery of the incident.


  • Determine if emergency responders are needed.
  • Determine if immediate hazards are under control and the situation is stabilized.
  • Determine if the site can be reoccupied or if further remediation or repair is needed.

Decision Maker(s)

The decision to call for emergency assistance may be made by:

  • a user
  • a person discovering an spill incident
  • a University resource or emergency unit receiving a call for assistance.

The decision that an incident is controlled and stabilized is made by the emergency response agency, i.e. the Incident Commander from the Fire Department or Johnson County HAZMAT Team.  After immediate hazards have been controlled and stabilized, the Incident Commander will transfer authority and responsibility for the site to the University Police.  University Police will transfer responsibility back to the unit, department, or facility tenant, as appropriate for the situation.  Emergency agencies and units may request input for decision-making from University resource units; for example, to determine that re-occupancy is safe.  

Subsequent Procedures/Information

Depending on the nature and needs of the incident, assistance and services may be brought in from other public support agencies, University resource units, or specialized contractors.