Ms. Ellis

Eco-Friendly Practices

Are you Prepared to Handle an Emergency Spill Response?

By Maricha Ellis, VP of Marketing & Sales Operations, Stericycle Environmental Solutions

With the summer storm season upon us, it's especially important for hotels to be prepared for hazardous waste emergencies caused by severe weather. Preparation for such events is crucial for safely and compliantly handling emergency spills.

Not only is proactive planning for environmental emergencies valuable from a compliance standpoint, but it can help minimize the damage inflicted within your hotel and the surrounding area, as well as reduce the risk to the health of your guests and staff members. Taking action to prepare your property and staff in the event of severe inclement weather and other common environmental emergencies can also minimize cleanup costs. By following a few simple precautions and educating yourself on some of the most common environmental emergency circumstances that can take place on hotel properties, you can make a concerted effort to reduce the damages and expenses that can result from these events.

While there are a multitude of environmental emergencies that can occur at your hotel, some situations are more likely to occur than others. Natural disasters, flooding, container leaks, fuel spills and unknown substance handling are the five most common environmental emergency circumstances you may find yourself managing the response efforts for in your hotel.

Natural Disasters

To mitigate the risks of injury, damage to the surrounding areas and environmental harm, a successful emergency response plan and team should be in place, ready to be enacted at any time a natural disaster should occur. There are several factors that must be considered when devising an emergency response plan in anticipation of a storm or other severe weather events. From standard best practices such as moving or securing all hazardous chemicals prior to the arrival of severe weather to completing the mandatory paperwork and reporting following the cleanup, there are many precautions and elements that should be considered and prepared for accordingly.

Natural disasters often result in fuel, chemical and other hazardous substances being spilled into air, land and water. However, advance preparation in anticipation of a major storm or weather emergency can go a long way in reducing the damage, time and costs associated with emergency response cleanups. For the hazardous waste that cannot be removed prior to the arrival of the severe weather, there are several safety precautions to follow when securing the materials that will remain on site. Solids and powders can be covered in plastic and secured properly, and the correct lids should be securely fastened on containers. Containment areas should be set up and properly cleaned. Known waste areas should also be cleared out in advance of a major weather event.

Additionally, emergency response preparedness involves accounting for the identification of unknown substances, proper waste handling readiness and other critical tasks that are required for each situation. To ensure a successful emergency response in the wake of a major storm, members of your emergency response team should possess extensive expertise and specialized knowledge of hazardous substances and proper waste management that takes safety and full compliance with all applicable regulations into account.

If you plan to employ a third-party emergency response team, it's wise to make arrangements with them prior to the storm's arrival to reduce response time. Not only does this planning allow them to reach your hotel at a faster speed following the storm, but it can also reduce costs associated with emergency response efforts. These experts can suggest several ways to minimize spills and other damage inflicted by severe weather. By following their recommendations on storm preparedness practices, such as moving and securing hazardous materials before the storm arrives, you can take preventative steps to reducing your emergency response expenses.


When flooding occurs, there are a number of damaging incidents for which need to be prepared. In addition to tasks you would expect to complete when flooding takes place, such as pumping out contaminated water or mold abatement, the residual damage caused by floods can impact a variety of hazardous waste removal efforts. For example, flooded guest rooms mean products, some of which may contain hazardous materials, must be segregated according to waste stream and disposed of properly.

With materials that must be profiled for disposal, it must be processed and handled accordingly. Throughout this process, sampling and analytical testing is conducted. When sorting the materials, it's a best practice to determine which components may be recycled or otherwise re-purposed to reduce the total amount of landfill waste resulting from the emergency response cleanup.

Container Leaks

Container leaks are another common environmental emergency response situation for which you should be prepared. From fuel drums to other waste oils that may be harmful to the environment, wildlife and aquatic life, there are a variety of materials that can cause significant environmental harm if spilled.

Once a container leak has occurred, you should work quickly to identify the spilled material, secure the container and determine if there are any environmental threats that must be addressed immediately. After the leaked material has been properly identified, safely secure the container and surrounding space to prevent additional material from spreading and contaminating a greater area. If it becomes necessary to move the container to a different location, ensure it won't be exposed to unsafe weather elements that would cause further spillage and damage. Following proper protocol and compliance measures, conduct any necessary air monitoring and cleaning, as well as separate and remove damaged or contaminated items from the scene.

Fuel Spills

Given the volume of vehicles arriving and departing from your property at any given time, fuel spills are a common emergency response occurrence for which to be prepared. From containment and tracking fuel leaks to soil remediation and reporting procedures, it's important to account for a variety of factors to ensure a safe, compliant response to a fuel spill. Improperly managed fuel spills can result in soil, water and other environment damage and jeopardize personal safety of your guests, employees and members of the surrounding community.

Unknown Substance Handling

Trained emergency response technicians can identify unknown substances and assess potential environmental harm. Once the unknown substance is identified, the technician can provide the Safety Data Sheet (SDS) for the substance. The SDS informs on-site technicians of the guidelines for safe and compliant clean up and disposal of the substance, such as proper handling procedures, physical data, potential health hazards and equipment requirements for storage and disposal.

Complying with Regulations

In addition to preparing your hotel and staff members for environmental emergencies, it's also crucial to arm yourself with more knowledge on the regulations that must be followed in the event of an environmental emergency.

For example, the Environmental Protection Agency's Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) is critical to review and remain in compliance with as you plan for and execute any environmental emergency response efforts. Per the list of chemicals included in EPCRA, if any of these chemicals on the list are in danger of being released into the environment, hotels must have a third-party team ready to come in immediately after an emergency incident to perform cleanup. This list includes several chemicals that can commonly be found on a hotel's property, such as chlorine, propane and diesel.

The EPCRA Hazardous Chemical Inventory Reporting Requirements also state that for any hazardous chemicals used or stored on the property, facilities must maintain and submit MSDSs (Material Safety Data Sheets) or Safety Data Sheets (SDSs), or a list of hazardous chemicals to their State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and local fire department. State reporting requirements should also be reviewed to know which actions are required in the event of emergencies too.

While there are numerous environmental emergencies for which you should be expected to handle, natural disasters, flooding, container leaks, fuel spills and unknown substance handling situations are five of the most common instances you are likely to encounter in a hotel setting. Advance preparation can ensure you're doing everything in your power to minimize harm to the environment, damage to your property, the health of your guests and employees and the expenses associated with environmental emergency response efforts.

The more prepared you can make your staff members on how to react and who to contact in the case of an environmental emergency, the more well equipped you are to manage these situations safely and in compliance with government regulations. Emergency response plans detailing this level of instruction and information should be created and reviewed with employees. A third-party emergency response team can also be engaged for training and services purposes to ensure situations are handled in a safe and compliant manner, no matter what time of day the incident occurs.

From the initial response to cleanup and final paperwork and reporting, every hazardous waste emergency response situation must be managed with a commitment to safety and full compliance with all relevant regulations. Ultimately, the right preparation, intelligent planning and an experienced emergency response team are critical to the success of managing environmental emergencies in a way that protects our environment, your property and your guests and staff members.

Maricha Ellis is Vice President of Marketing and Sales Operations for Stericycle Environmental Solutions. Ms. Ellis directs the development of product/service strategies, tactics and revenue. She provides leadership, direction and management of marketing personnel, including new business development and product management, vertical marketing, digital strategy, brand and marketing communications, public relations and events. Her responsibilities also include developing and implementing strategic marketing plans, marketing metrics and data analysis to support and drive the business. Additionally, she monitors the market and regulatory environment to identify trends, shifts and opportunities; directs internal communication to incite growth activities and directs external communication through various channels/mediums. Ms. Ellis can be contacted at 844-836-0848 or Please visit for more information. Extended Bio... retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review. Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by

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