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by the NFCC

Control measure
Identify cause of release or spill

Control measure knowledge

If the correct container has been used and it is intact, the substance is in a controlled state and no risk is posed to people, animals, infrastructure or the environment. Incidents involving hazardous materials are fundamentally driven by containment failure and the way in which failure occurs. This leads to the hazardous materials becoming uncontrolled and introduces risk. 

Containment failure can only occur following a stressor being applied to the container. There are a limited number of stressors that can affect containment: 

  • Thermal 
  • Chemical/biochemical/photochemical
  • Mechanical 
  • Human or animal 

Once containment failure has become inevitable, the way containment fails can also have significant effect on the outcome and scale of the incident. There are a limited number of ways in which a container can breach; these will lead to a specific type of release that will affect the scale and level of risk.


Type of Breach

Potential Release

Catastrophic failure

Full release

Runaway cracking

Violent rupture

Attachments opening up

Rapid release



Splits or tears


Strategic actions

Fire and rescue services should:
  • Ensure personnel who respond to hazardous materials incidents receive specific information, instruction and training on the causes, mechanisms and impact of containment failure

Tactical actions

Incident commanders should:
  • Assess the construction, condition and stressors acting on the ineffective containment systems

  • Consider the type of stressors involved and the ability of the container to tolerate the stresses on it