Spills, Leaks & Odors

Hazardous materials: Spills, gas leaks, and odors - E.S.C.A.P.E.

Exit the area -- Immediately after a hazardous chemical is spilled, you must exit the area. If access is not blocked by the spilled material and hazardous vapors/fumes are not present in the area, you may do the following before you exit.

  • If indoors, raise the sash on fume hoods and turn on exhaust fans to increase airflow in the area.

If outdoors, use any readily available materials and equipment to block spilled material from entering a storm drain. Shut the doors and/or secure the area -- Inside buildings, shut doors to block access to areas where hazardous materials have been spilled.  Outdoors, block or divert traffic away from the spilled material.

Call for assistance – If life-threatening, call 911.  If non-life-threatening, call EHS during regular business hours (IUPD at 812-855-4111 for nights and weekends) and be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Building name
  • Room number or location
  • Type of incident
  • Name of chemical spilled or description of odor if unsure of the chemical
  • Estimate of the volume of chemical spilled

Assess the situation -- Determine if the spill poses a significant and immediate threat to building occupants due to fire, extreme toxicity, flammable vapors with the potential for explosion, or other life-threatening scenario. These types of incidents are rare. If the spill does not pose a threat to the building occupants then remain available in the immediate area (at a safe distance).  When emergency responders arrive or contact you, follow any instructions they provide.  If you determine that the situation poses a significant and immediate danger then proceed to the next step.

Pull the fire alarm -- After determining that the spill poses an immediate danger to the building occupants, pull the fire alarm. Activating the fire alarm will alert occupants to evacuate and make notification to emergency responders of the active fire alarm.

Exit the building -- Once the fire alarm has been activated, exit the building according to building evacuation procedures. Proceed to a location that is a safe distance from the main entrance of the building and contact your building manager, supervisor, and other designated persons to brief them on the incident. Remain available to provide information about the spill to emergency responders as they arrive.

Learn more about hazardous material safety

Chemical contamination

For all chemical contamination to a person, the following actions should be taken.

Remove any contaminated clothing immediately and flush all areas of bodily contact with copious amounts of water. This should take place while someone else makes the appropriate phone calls and in a safe location.

Ensure that medical assistance is obtained for those injured or exposed. Continue to rinse body contact areas with copious amounts of water for at least 15 minutes unless directed otherwise by appropriate emergency medical personnel (physician, nurse, paramedic, or emergency medical technician).

Visit the Authorized Medical Provider for your campus for medical care and evaluation. If possible, take applicable Safety Data Sheets (SDSs) with you.

Radiation release

The Radiation Safety Procedures Manual gives detailed instructions on what to do in the event of a release involving radioactive material. Basic instructions include:

Contact EHS Radiation Safety

IU Bloomington

  • 812-855-3230
  • 812-855-4111 after hours; ask to alert on-call Radiation Safety

IU Indianapolis 

  • 317-274-4797 weekdays 8am-5pm
  • 317-274-2058 after hours; ask to alert on-call Radiation Safety
  • 317-734-7005 to reach on-call Radiation Safety directly

Notify everyone in the area of the release and limit access. Prevent the spread of contamination by confining the spill and limiting people in the area.

Monitor all persons involved in the spill and request any contaminated individuals to remain in the general vicinity.

Learn more about radiation safety

Biological spills

If the biological spill poses an inhalation hazard, do not attempt to handle the spill. Environmental Health and Safety - Biological Safety will assume responsibility for the situation. If the microorganism does not pose an inhalation threat and you are qualified and comfortable cleaning up the spill, proceed to the next step. If you are unclear if the spill represents an inhalation hazard always treat it as an inhalation hazard.

Cover the area of the spill with absorbent pads or towels, and carefully pour disinfectant around the spill. Because the volume of the spill will dilute the disinfectant, a concentrated disinfectant should be used. Contact time is dependent on the disinfectant used.  Follow manufacturer’s recommendations for sufficient contact time.

Note: Pick up any visible sharp objects with tongs and discard in a sharps container (Never use your hands to pick up sharp items).

ALL spills of biological materials, regardless of biosafety level, must be reported to Environmental Health & Safety for the respective campus.

Gas leaks or releases

If a compressed gas cylinder or gas piping is leaking or is suspected of leaking, or if there is any other known or suspected gas release, and if a person knowledgeable about the source determines that it is hazardous to them or to other building occupants, the following steps should be taken:

Immediately notify building occupants to evacuate the area using general evacuation procedures.

Contact IUPD at 812-855-4111 and be prepared to provide the following information:

  • Building name
  • Floor and room number
  • Specific chemical name of involved gas
  • Source of the gas

Abnormal or unusual odors

When reporting an unusual or abnormal odor, be prepared to provide the following information.

  • Description of odor (e.g. natural gas odor).
  • Time(s) of detection.
  • Abnormal conditions, activities, or materials at the time of detection (e.g. construction activities).

Natural gas smells - Immediately leave the area and contact the IU Police Department at 812-855-4111.

Rotten egg or sewer smells - These odors typically occur when a drain trap dries out. If the odor is moderate, run water down nearby sinks and check to see if the odor dissipates. If the odor is strong or persists after refilling drains traps, the individual should contact Facilities Operations/Campus Facilities Services (or equivalent) to report the odor.

Exhaust or diesel smells - These odors typically enter a building through air intakes when motor vehicles or construction equipment are left idling nearby. These odors are normally dependent on the wind direction and typically last for a short duration. If this type of odor persists, the employee should contact Environmental Health and Safety to report the odor.

If the employee has additional concerns or questions about these or any other unknown odors, contact Environmental Health and Safety to report the odor.

Hazmat emergency campus contact info

IUPD: 812-855-4111
IUPD address: 1469 E. 17th Street
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 812-855-2004
Facilities Operations: 812-855-8728
Radiation Safety (EHS): 812-855-3230
IU Student Health Center: 812-855-4011
IU Emergency, Management & Continuity: 812-855-2004

IUPD: 317-274-7911
IUPD address: Ott Building, 992 Indiana Ave., Indianapolis
Campus Facility Services (CFS): 317-278-1900
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 317-274-2005
Radiation Safety (EHS): 317-274-4797
IU Emergency, Management & Continuity (IUEMC): 317-274-8152

Columbus Police from a non-campus phone: 812-348-7233
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 812-855-2004
Campus Facility Services
CC Building: 812-348-7237
LC & AMCE Buildings: 812-314-8511

IUPD 765-973-8429
Environmental, Health & Safety (EHS): 765-973-8568
Physical Facilities: 765-973-8423

IUPD: 765-455-9432
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 765-455-9413

IUPD: 219-980-6501
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 219-981-4230
Facilities Services: 219-980-6710

IUPD: 574-520-4239
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 219-981-4230
Facilities Management: 574-520-4386

IUPD: 812-941-2400
Environmental Health & Safety (EHS): 812-855-2004
Facility Operations: 812-941-2566