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When a hazardous substance release is reported in the United States, the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) Emergency Response Program sets its response procedures into motion.
Response actions fall into three main categories, depending on the urgency of the situation. EPA has conducted several thousand response actions since the Emergency Response program began in 1980, and has directed and monitored many other actions carried out by those responsible for the contamination.
Experience has demonstrated that not all emergency response or removal actions classified under the National Contingency Plan (NCP) are equally urgent.
Classic Emergencies: Those actions where the release requires that on-site activities be initiated within minutes or hours of the determination that a removal action is appropriate. Time-Critical Actions: Those actions where, based on an evaluation of the site, EPA determines that less than six months is available before site activities must be initiated. Non-Time-Critical Actions: Those actions where, based on an evaluation of the site, EPA determines that more than six months is available before on-site activities must begin. Despite the nation's best efforts to prevent spills, almost 14,000 oil spills are reported each year, mobilizing thousands of specially trained emergency response personnel and challenging the best-laid contingency plans.
The National Response Center (NRC) is the federal government's national communications center, which is staffed 24 hours a day by U.S. Reports to the NRC activate the National Contingency Plan and the federal government's response capabilities. Once EPA learns of a potential hazardous substance release, an established set of procedures is followed to investigate the site, evaluate the threat, and determine the best course of action. Prior to initiating an emergency response action, the OSC will conduct an off-site preliminary assessment of the release and the site's characteristics. Once EPA determines the type of emergency response action needed, response personnel take special precautions to ensure that they are protected from the threats posed at the site.
As response personnel enter the site of the release, they gather additional information and further evaluate the site risks and hazards present. Site investigations are essential to protect the health and safety of response personnel and others during emergency response actions.
Fish & Wildlife Service personnel participate as members of an integrated response team, responding to chemical and oil spills.
As the federal government's lead agency in responding to oil spills in inland waters, EPA is responsible for monitoring and, if necessary, directing spill response efforts. The On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) is the federal official responsible for monitoring or managing federal responses to oil spills. If the OSC determines that federal involvement is needed, the OSC will assume control of all spill response operations at the site and will obtain and direct all needed resources, such as cleanup personnel and equipment. For oil spills that require a greater scope of federal support and resources, the OSC may activate the Regional Response Team to provide broader technical advice, equipment, or manpower to assist with a response.
The On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) is the federal official responsible for monitoring or directing responses to all oil spills and hazardous substance releases reported to the federal government.
Most releases or spills are small and are cleaned up by the responsible party or local response agencies. Evaluating response actions provides information that is useful for designing or improving spill response plans. The National Response System (NRS) routinely and effectively responds to a wide range of oil and hazardous substance releases.
At the heart of the system is the National Contingency Plan (NCP), which ensures that the resources and expertise of the federal government are available immediately for oil or hazardous substance releases that are beyond the capabilities of local and state responders.
Because a hazardous substance release or an oil spill could occur virtually anywhere and at any time, EPA and a network of federal, state, and local responders stand ready 24 hours a day to contain and clean-up the discharged oil and released chemicals. One of EPA's major tasks is to coordinate contingency planning efforts with other agencies to ensure that emergency responses are carried out quickly and with maximum effectiveness. Contingency plans describe the information and processes for responding to hazardous substance emergencies, including the roles and responsibilities of the different responding agencies, the location and availability of response resources, the process for conducting the response, and other actions necessary to ensure a safe and effective cleanup.
The National Contingency Plan Overview (National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan - 40 CFR Part 300) is the federal government's primary plan for preparing for, and coordinating with, other emergency responders.
The federal government also prepares Regional and Area Contingency Plans that coordinate effective responses within each of the 10 standard federal regions and other designated Areas covering Alaska, the Caribbean, and several islands in the Pacific. At the local level, Local Contingency Plans are developed to prepare and organize local resources in the event of the accidental release of hazardous substances. Federal on-scene coordinators, who are the federal government's frontline staff during an incident, may develop an On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) Contingency Plan for responses in the OSC's area of responsibility. Taken together, these activities and resources form the cornerstone of our country's ability to respond to hazardous substance emergencies regardless of their nature, size, or location.
Together, EPA and state and local governments form an effective partnership at all points in the emergency response process as part of our country's National Response System, a multi-layered network of individuals and teams from local, state, and federal agencies, industry, and other response organizations. The Superfund law grants the Emergency Response program and the Superfund program the authority to respond to hazardous substance emergencies. The Superfund Response program is primarily responsible for long-term responses, which involve complex and highly contaminated sites where it often requires several years to fully study the problem, develop a permanent remedy, and clean up the hazardous waste. Sometimes, when an EPA On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) or other emergency responder comes to the scene of a hazardous substance release, he or she immediately knows that extra technical help will be needed.
Members of EPA's Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT) inspecting a potentially hazardous site. Environmental Response Team: The Environmental Response Team (ERT) is a group of EPA technical experts who provide around-the-clock assistance at the scene of hazardous substance releases, offering expertise in such areas as treatment, biology, chemistry, hydrology, geology, and engineering. National Response Team: The National Response Team (NRT) is an inter-agency group that provides guidance prior to an incident and, when requested, technical and financial assistance during an incident. Regional Response Teams: Regional Response Teams (RRTs) also are interagency groups that consist of representatives from federal, state, and local governments. Individual states are members in their respective Regional Response Teams, which are established and maintained in the National Response System to provide On-Scene Coordinator (OSCs) with support and assistance in responses to release incidents at the Regional level.
The NRT is responsible for distributing technical, financial, and operational information about hazardous substance releases and oil spills to all members of the team.
Science and Technology Committee, chaired by EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in alternating years, provides national coordination on issues that parallel those addressed by the Scientific Support Coordinator on an incident by incident basis. EPA inspectors look for hazardous spills in obvious places such as chemical plants and factories, but also visit sites like this high school chemistry lab to ensure no materials are creating a danger for students. The NRT ensures that the roles of federal agencies in the NRT for emergency response are clearly outlined in the National Contingency Plan (see the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan Overview). Training is the key to the federal strategy for preparing for oil spills or hazardous substance releases. The NRT supports Regional Response Teams (RRTs) by reviewing Regional or Area Contingency Plans to maintain consistency with national policies on emergency response. EPA personnel chair the National Response Team and cochair all Regional Response Teams (RRTs). No one wishes for an emergency situation, but it is always important that your multifamily property is prepared in the event of a disaster from flood, fire, tornado or other natural disaster.


You never know when a disaster may strike, but you will feel at ease knowing that you have prepared your staff and your property in the event something occurs. Main ContentFlint, Michigan is facing a serious public health crisis, with high levels of lead in its water supply. Many steps and safety precautions must be followed to ensure a swift and effective response to the emergency. When a release is first reported, responders may not know all the necessary information such as how the release occured, the extent of the damage, or even what hazardous substances are involved.
Once information has been gatherered about the release, responders can determine what type of response action should be taken.
The threats confronted by the EPA Emergency Response program vary greatly in size, nature, and location, and have involved EPA in incidents requiring unusual or complex emergency response actions. For example, situations involving fire or explosions or imminent, catastrophic contamination of a reservoir may require prompt and expeditious attention, while certain situations involving abandoned hazardous waste drums or cleanup of abandoned industrial facilities may not.
Although many spills are contained and cleaned up by the party responsible for the spill, some spills require assistance from local and state agencies, and occasionally, the federal government. EPA usually learns about a spill from the responsible party, who is required by law to report the spill to the federal government, or from state and local responders. It is the responsibility of the NRC staff to notify the pre-designated On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) assigned to the area of the incident and to collect available information on the size and nature of the release, the facility or vessel involved, and the party(ies) responsible for the release.
First, EPA designates an On-Scene Coordinator (OSC) to evaluate the incident and determine the appropriate response agency. The preliminary assessment helps to identify specific hazards and determine the appropriate response measures and safety measures needed to ensure the health and safety of the responders. When entering the site, response personnel wear personal protective gear to shield or isolate them from the chemical, physical, and biological hazards that may be encountered on the site.
Response personnel use this information to further refine their response activities and the safety measures being taken. The information gathered is absolutely critical to enable responders to proceed confidently and safely, and to ensure that local communities receive accurate information about the potential for adverse health effects. If the spill affects inland waters, then an EPA OSC will be designated for the incident; a USCG OSC will be designated for spills to coastal waters and the great lakes. If the OSC determines that the personnel and equipment already deployed at the spill site are inadequate, the OSC will employ spill contractors using available federal response funds or, if necessary, funds from the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund.
In addition, the OSC can request support from EPA's Environmental Response Team , which is available 24 hours-a-day to provide oil spill expertise and special response equipment to the spill responders. The OSC coordinates all federal efforts with, and provides support and information to, local, state and regional response communities. Assessment involves evaluating the size and nature of a release or spill, its potential hazards, the resources needed to contain and clean it up, and the ability of the responsible party or local authorities to handle the incident. Monitoring comprises those activities taken to ensure that the actions taken to control and clean up a chemical release or oil spill are appropriate. If the OSC decides that federal assistance is required, the OSC will obtain needed resources such as personnel and equipment. The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP) requires that the OSC report all activities that take place during and after an incident. It is a multi-layered system of individuals and teams from local, state, and federal agencies, industry, and other organizations that share expertise and resources to ensure that oil spill control and cleanup activities are timely and efficient, and that they minimize threats to human health and the environment. The NRF is the federal government's comprehensive, all-hazard approach to crisis management, and provides a mechanism for coordinating federal assistance to state governments and localities. EPA's Emergency Response program has a leadership role in this National Response System that promotes coordinated emergency response actions and guarantees the availability of resources to cover all possible release scenarios.
To further ensure the readiness of its response teams, EPA provides training to emergency responders so that they have the necessary skills and use appropriate precautions when undertaking emergency response measures. When used properly by trained personnel, a well-designed contingency plan enables response efforts to proceed smoothly and effectively, minimizes danger to cleanup personnel, reduces overall costs of cleanup by avoiding unnecessary effort, and ensures the protection of human health and the environment. The National Contingency Plan establishes the principles and structure of the unified command system and identifies the roles and responsibilities of the key players within the system.
These plans include preparedness information on a regional level and identify useful response facilities and resources available from government, commercial, academic, and other sources. Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act of 1986 (EPCRA), state governors are required to establish State Emergency Response Commissions, which in turn establish Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) for districts within the state. These plans identify probable locations of releases, the availability and location of emergency response resources, and the local structure for responding to release incidents. On the national level, the Superfund law distinguishes between short-term and long-term responses to threats posed by hazardous substances. As of August 1996, there were over 1200 Superfund sites undergoing some form of long-term cleanup.
The ERT can provide support to the full range of emergency response actions, including unusual or complex emergency incidents such as underwater releases. They conduct pre-response planning and preparedness activities, as well as coordinate and provide advice during response actions.
Prior to emergency incidents, EPA coordinates with states to ensure that state contingency plans are consistent with what was accomplished through national and regional contingency planning. Because firefighters and local police are usually the first responders at the scene of an incident, they are the first to assess the situation, identify the hazards, and take emergency measures, such as fighting a fire, securing the area, or re-routing traffic. This information is collected primarily by NRT committees whose purpose is to focus attention on specific issues, then collect and disseminate information on those issues to other members of the team. The focus of this committee is on identifying developed technology and mechanisms for applying those technologies to enhance operational response. After a major incident, the effectiveness of the response is carefully assessed by the NRT. Although most training is performed by state and local personnel, the NRT develops training courses and programs, coordinates federal training efforts, and provides information to regional, state, and local officials about training needs and courses. The NRT also supports RRTs by monitoring and assessing RRT effectiveness during an incident. The agency provides On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs), scientific support coordinators for inland spills, and Remedial Project Managers for hazardous waste remedial actions under Superfund. The agency provides guidance, policy, and technical assistance in emergency preparedness planning, training, and exercising activities for state and local governments. Since December 2014, USDA has confirmed several cases of highly pathogenic avian influenza HPAI H5 in the Pacific, Central, and Mississippi flyways .Emergency Response Animal Health Emergency Training Tools and Resources.
The manual will guide you through the process of creating an effective plan for your apartment community. HHS is committed to supporting the residents and health agencies in Flint and across Michigan.  The federal government will work with state and city officials to identify the size and scope of the problem, and then make and execute a plan to mitigate the short- and long-term health effects of lead exposure. All this information must be learned before any effective response effort can be carried out.
Under the National Contingency Plan, EPA is the lead federal response agency for oil spills occurring in inland waters, and the U.S.


Once the federal government receives the report, either through the National Response Center, EPA, or another agency, it is recorded in the Emergency Response Notification System, or ERNS. The NRC is the sole federal point of contact for reporting all hazardous substances and oil spills.
If the OSC determines that EPA will take the lead in responding to the incident, the OSC will evaluate the urgency of the situation to determine the appropriate response alternative. The selection of the type or level of personal protective equipment is based on the identification of the hazards or suspected hazards, potential exposure pathways, and the performance of the equipment in providing a barrier to these hazards. Generally, response workers entering the site conduct a visual survey for potential hazards and may perform air monitoring for potential dangers to life and health. Once notified of an oil spill, the OSC also will conduct an immediate assessment to evaluate several factors, including the size and nature of the spill, the type of oil spilled, its potential hazards, and the resources needed to contain and clean it up. The OSC also can access various National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Scientific Support Coordinators with expertise in different aspects of oil spills, as well as support from non-governmental organizations that specialize in wildlife rescue and rehabilitation. The results of the assessment are used to determine the need for personnel, equipment, and other resources to promptly and effectively combat the release.
Monitoring can be conducted from the site when necessary, or from an agency office if the situation appears to be under control.
If sufficient resources are not available for an incident, the OSC decides who pays and can secure federal funding either from the Superfund trust fund for hazardous substance releases or the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund for oil spills. For example, following an oil spill, the OSC is required to file a summary report that outlines the actions taken to remedy the spill and the level of assistance provided by local, state, and federal agencies. This coordination allows federal, state, and local agencies to work together to respond to all emergencies efficiently. Because the approaches and methods for responding to releases are constantly evolving, contingency plans also are constantly evolving and improving. These emergency planning organizations are responsible for developing local contingency plans using chemical inventory information collected as part of the law's community right-to-know provisions. Together, the Superfund and the Emergency Response programs coordinate safe and effective response techniques for any type of hazardous substance emergency. The two principal components of the RRT are thirteen regional standing teams that provide region-wide support on communications, planning, coordination, training, evaluation, and preparedness, as well as incident-specific teams for which participation depends on the technical nature and location of the incident.
Their assessment and initial activities help the EPA OSC determine what EPA actions are necessary. The committee monitors research and development of response technologies and provides relevant information to the RRTs and other members of the National Response System to assist in the use of such technologies.
The NRT may use information gathered from the assessment to make recommendations for improving the National Contingency Plan and the National Response System. The NRT may ask an RRT to focus on specific lessons learned from a particular incident and to share those lessons with other members of the National Response System.
EPA funds the Environmental Response Team (ERT), which is dispatched at the OSC's request to any response episode exceeding available regional resources.
Navy oil spill containment and recovery equipment and manpower, as well as equipment for ship salvaging, shipboard damage control, and diving. The CFSPH works with state, national, and international animal health agencies to develop . Site investigation also allows responders to determine the appropriate safety measures to take during the response effort.
ERNS contains historical spill information for the entire country dating from 1986, and is currently available for downloading. The NRC receives all reports of releases involving hazardous substances and oil that trigger the federal notification requirements under several laws. Thanks to the Community Right-to-Know law, important information about the released substances is often easily and quickly obtained. Because there is often little known information on specific hazards during the initial phase of an emergency response, the OSC typically directs that the most protective equipment be used at first; as more information about the hazards and conditions become available, the OSC can decide to downgrade the level of protection to match the site hazards. The OSC also will monitor any existing response efforts to determine whether additional technical support or federal involvement is necessary. In the case of oil spills, the OSC is legally required to monitor the response if the spill poses a substantial threat to the health and welfare of the public due to its size or characteristics. This assistance ensures that cleanup will not be hindered by a lack in availability of personnel or equipment on behalf of the local or state or responsible party resources.
These reports can be used to identify problem areas and can be shared with other agencies who may make recommendations for improvement. EPA also provides other financial and technical support as needed to assist local communities in responding to the broad range of emergency response incidents that may occur. These short-term national responses are primarily coordinated by the Emergency Response program. The NRT may be asked to help Regional Response Teams (RRTs) develop Regional Contingency Plans. In this way, the RRTs can improve their own regional contingency plans while helping to solve problems that might be occurring elsewhere within the National Response System. The ERT can provide support for site assessments, health and safety issues, action plan development, and contamination monitoring.
Response personnel use direct-reading instruments and testing equipment when performing air monitoring. EPA OSCs have primary responsibility for spills and releases to inland areas and waters, while U.S.
EPA differentiates among three types of emergency response alternatives according to the urgency of the situation, and the Emergency Response program ensures that all elements of the response system are ready to respond immediately to any hazardous substance emergency, wherever it occurs. The NRT also reviews these plans to determine whether they comply with federal policies on emergency response.
Army Corp of Engineer equipment and expertise available for removing navigational obstructions and performing ship structural repairs.
One important goal of monitoring during initial site entry is to establish work or safety zones at the site. Since its inception in 1980, the program has compiled an impressive record of accomplishments. As the emergency response action continues, response personnel conduct periodic monitoring to ensure that any new hazards are identified promptly and that appropriate controls are implemented to protect the responders and nearby communities. Coast Guard manages the National Response Center and maintains a National Strike Force, specially trained and equipped to respond to major marine pollution incidents. Commandant of the Coast Guard also serves as fund manager for the Oil Pollution Liability Trust Fund set up under the Clean Water Act.



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