Module 1: Introduction to Emergency Management


  1. What Is Emergency Management?
  2. The Contingency Plan
  3. Introduction to Federal and State Government Emergency Management Programs and Emergency Response Plans
  4. Federal Emergency Management Plans
  5. State and Local Plans
  6. Facility or Employer Plans
  7. Federal Disaster Investigative Agencies
  8. Brief Introduction to National Voluntary Standards, Trade Associations' Programs, and International Programs
  9. International Programs
  10. Hazard Analysis, Risk Analysis, and Risk Management
  11. The DOT Emergency Response Guidebook

In this module, we introduce the basic elements of emergency management and discuss briefly the breadth and depth of emergency planning and preparedness. We will use the term preplan to refer to the preparedness and prevention plan. Emergency management involves management preparations for anticipated emergencies that include a pre-emergency planning document called a contingency plan. The contingency plan describes how to deal with

I. What Is Emergency Management?

For our purposes in this course, we can define emergency as an unplanned or unintended event, terrorist incident, or disaster that creates a hazard. Emergency management is the art and practice of assessing or evaluating these hazards and implementing methods called controls to protect people, property, and the environment.

The assessment and evaluation of serious hazards should be systematic, and the steps taken should be documented appropriately. Emergency management staff convert this documentation into a contingency plan for these events. The objective of the plan is to keep people, the community, the business, and the environment safe even if a disaster or near-disaster occurs that could harm them. Out of the formal emergency management plan emerges a contingency plan, which details the steps for mitigating the consequences of exposure to serious hazards.

The first part of the contingency plan is a preplan describing the pre-positioning of emergency equipment and supplies and strategies for handling anticipated emergencies.

The second part of the contingency plan describes the handling of the actual emergency and states clearly who is in charge of an emergency, for example at a facility site. This part of the plan details who does what during the actual emergency and lists the procedures to be followed to protect the emergency responders, the property, and environment during the actual emergency.

The recovery plan is the second part of the emergency management plan but it is often overlooked when the emergency management plan or the contingency plan is assembled.  The recovery plan describes how to provide relief for those who are adversely affected by the release or the harmful event and to get the business or entity back in operation.

The graphic below gives a general idea of what constitutes a contingency plan.

II. The Contingency Plan

The principle document of emergency management is the contingency plan, which includes various contingencies to address specific types of emergencies anticipated by the organization or planning group. These plans must be as simple as possible while providing adequate guidance to those in charge of handling the emergency. A simple plan is much easier to implement during an emergency than a complex one.

The contingency plan for each facility should be coordinated with the contingency plan for the local community to better assure that community assets for emergencies are made more readily available to the facility if and when emergency strikes. This is also true for larger emergencies and disasters up to and including states coordinating their plans with the federal regional plans.

Each contingency plan must include a chapter or section addressing the emergency response so that all the necessary notifications are made, the means for obtaining the resources required to control the event are clear, and the line authority is established for managing the emergency event. The plan must also describe what recovery efforts will be undertaken, the ways in which victims will be cared for in the aftermath, and the means for restoring the business or other entity.

Priorities of Emergency Management

The contingency plan has several priorities that are ranked hierarchically. They are

  1. protecting the lives of people and animals
  2. protecting property
  3. protecting the environment

We will discuss each of these below.

First Priority—Protecting the Lives of People and Animals

The most important priority of emergency management is protecting lives. When there is an emergency incident and a loss of life, the contingency plan must include the steps emergency responders are expected to take to handle the situation.

Human lives must be protected and saved if at all possible, short of sacrificing the lives of rescuers for the lives of the victims of the incident. Humans are naturally motivated to protect themselves, their families, and their friends from harm. This motivation often expands to include protecting one's neighbors and communities. Some of this protection is government mandated. The goal is for all involved parties to work together, following the contingency plan and using available resources to handle emergencies to protect the community, the company, and themselves. A related goal is to prevent the disaster from spreading to nearby areas.

When the recovery of human remains is involved, personnel must respect the dignity of the victims and the victims' families and friends. It is critical for emergency response personnel to be professional and mindful of how their recovery actions may be perceived by the family, the media, and the general public.

A subpriority is saving the lives of companion animals or pets. If present, the protection of other animals such as farm animals, zoo animals, and wildlife should also be addressed in this section or chapter of the contingency plan.

Second Priority—Protecting Property

The second most important priority is to protect property and other physical assets from destruction or damage. The objective of this priority is to describe within the contingency plan the steps to be taken to protect property from harm, whether it be an original copy of the Declaration of Independence or a business's computer network, machinery, or inventory. (This property-protection priority builds on the self-protection and self-preservation motivation.)

Property should not, however, be protected at the expense of lives or the environment. Remember that protecting wildlife—including life in bodies of water—is part of the first priority.

This property-protection element of the contingency plan should describe cooperative efforts and laws and regulations requiring private and public enterprises to contribute to the overall level of preparedness to help protect the community at large. Building and fire codes are examples of government regulations designed to help protect property as well as lives. Each entity should help the community to better handle anticipated emergencies.

Third Priority—Protecting the Environment

The last priority discussed in the contingency plan is protection of the environment. Again, various laws require private and public enterprises to work together to protect sensitive environmental areas or to minimize any harm to the environment in general. These laws and regulations also mandate emergency response and recovery planning to better assure quick, effective response to minimize potential environmental damage if and when an emergency incident occurs.

Within the environmental protection priority are the following subpriorities:

  1. protecting sensitive wilderness areas
  2. protecting areas in which people make a living, such as waterways in which shellfish or fish are caught
  3. protecting the overall environment of the local or larger community

Applying the Priorities

All three of these basic elements of emergency management—the protection of lives, property, and the environment—must be considered fully in every major emergency that occurs within the local community, and so these basic elements must be addressed in the contingency plan.

Small emergencies that may occur within a plant or building may have little effect on the environment. Those emergencies that begin in or spread to the external environment require emergency management staff to consider their impact on the environment as well as on life and property. Emergency management responsibilities include anticipating realistic extensions of a given emergency and planning for them. Such extensions must be addressed in the contingency plan when it is first written and when it is revised.

To put these basic priorities and their subpriorities into a meaningful hierarchy, the planner must evaluate systematically those hazards or events the contingency plan is to address. Planners must know how to identify the types of emergencies that must be addressed and the hazardous characteristics of materials, equipment, or processes that are present. They must also be able to make hazard and risk assessments of these hazardous situations. The location of people and property in relationship to the hazard being evaluated must also be considered.

An assessment analysis must be performed for each man-made hazard and for harmful nature-caused events such as floods, tornadoes, or hurricanes. In determining the potential man-made hazards or acts of nature that could cause an emergency, planners should also assess systematically their effects on life, property, and the environment, including private enterprise, the local community, and government. You will find more detail in module 3.

Accident Prevention

Integrated as part of the safety and health management or risk-management program, emergency management programs are intended to prevent emergencies if possible, as well as to prepare for them if they do occur.

As the name implies, accident prevention efforts should be used to the fullest extent possible to prevent the harmful event from ever occurring. It's difficult, however, to prevent terrorist events and nature-caused disasters. The primary goal of accident prevention is to keep people from being injured and the harmful event from happening by implementing a variety of control measures. These measures may not be totally effective, however, and the business must develop a contingency plan for handling harmful events. When a disaster does occur, emergency management is applied to bring the event to the most successful conclusion feasible in terms of protecting life, property, and the environment.

III. Introduction to Federal and State Government Emergency Management Programs and Emergency Response Plans

Some of the federally and state-mandated plans address only the employer's or local government's obligation to provide emergency response and recovery services during and after an emergency. These plans may not address other issues that a good emergency management program or plan should address. Emergency response planning efforts are typically constrained by how much authority the government possesses.

We will look at some of the federal laws, regulations, and programs that federal and state agencies are implementing to improve emergency management practices and programs. You will find more details in module 5.

Most of the major cabinet-level departments and independent federal agencies now have some involvement in emergency management. The security changes in the past decade that culminated in the creation of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2003 have enhanced the roles of federal, state, and local governments in preventing terrorist attacks and in preparedness and emergency management. These changes have improved capabilities for emergency prevention, response, and recovery. We will discuss two examples of this new federal effort, the USA Patriot Act and the Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP) Emergency Responder Guidelines.

The USA Patriot Act

The USA Patriot Act (P.L. 107-56) requires the Department of Transportation (DOT) and the Department of Homeland Security to use the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) to do background checks on every applicant for a commercial driver's license (CDL) for hazardous materials transport.

The DOT's Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has issued regulations (49 CFR 383) for licensing CDL drivers that prohibits any state from issuing, renewing, transferring, or upgrading a license to operate a motor vehicle transporting a hazardous material until certain evaluations are completed.

When someone applies to a state department of transportation for a CDL for hazardous materials transport, the following actions are taken in the order listed below.

  1. The state agency forwards the truck driver's licensing request to DOT.
  1. The DOT Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration asks the FBI to conduct a background records check of the applicant.
  1. The results of the FBI records check are sent to the Department of Homeland Security's Transportation Security Administration to ensure that the applicant does not pose a security threat that would otherwise warrant a denial of the hazardous materials endorsement.
  1. The secretary of transportation officially determines whether the applicant does or does not pose a security risk and informs the state licensing agency.

Evaluating drivers before issuing CDLs is only one of the new policies. Approved drivers must now meet additional safety training requirements. Among these requirements are the following:

For additional information on security plans, go to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Web site and search for the terms preparedness, response, recovery, and cybersecurity. (See the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus.)

ODP Emergency Responder Guidelines

The second example of new federal efforts are the guidelines issued by the federal Office of Domestic Preparedness (ODP), which is now part of the Department of Homeland Security, having moved from the Department of Justice. The ODP Emergency Responder Guidelines are not regulations but have been published to enhance the capabilities of state and local jurisdictions to prepare for and respond to incidents of domestic terrorism involving chemical and biological agents and nuclear, radioactive, and explosive devices.

These guidelines address the training, skills, and knowledge that law enforcement, fire service, emergency medical service, emergency management, hazardous materials, and public works personnel should have to deal with events involving weapons of mass destruction.

ODP provides grant funds to enable state and local agencies to purchase specialized equipment for emergency response agencies, provides critical training to emergency response personnel, supports state and local emergency-response exercises, and provides technical assistance to state and local emergency response agencies and public officials. For additional information on ODP programs, go to the Web site of the Department of Homeland Security, Office of Domestic Preparedness.

IV. Federal Emergency Management Plans

Two principal federal emergency management plans are in use today:

  1. National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (NCP)
  2. National Response Framework (NRF)

We will discuss each of these below.

National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (the short title is National Contingency Plan) is operated by the National Response Team (NRT). It was created from various environmental laws, including the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (Superfund Act) and the Oil Pollution Act (OPA). The NRT comprises the 16-plus federal agencies with major responsibilities for programs that affect the emergency management field. The NRT is co-chaired by the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), now part of the Department of Homeland Security, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The USCG and the EPA have a lead role in helping state and local agencies handle emergencies, principally those involving chemical hazardous materials and oil-related product spills. The USCG is the lead federal agency for helping with waterborne spills in navigable waters. EPA is the lead for all others, and each agency has trained federal on-scene emergency coordinators who will respond to an incident under the authority of their agency. If the emergency responders are not doing a proper job, the federal on-scene coordinator may take control of the incident.

Each of the 10 federal regions has a response team that operates under the overall direction of the NRT. These teams comprise representatives of federal agencies in the region who help the states within the region. For more information on the National Contingency Plan and the NRT, go to the EPA Web site and search for National Contingency Plan (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

National Response Framework

The second federal emergency management document is the National Response Framework (NRF), which details how the federal government will conduct response activities to nonmilitary domestic emergencies. The NRF, which integrates emergency response and law enforcement elements into a national strategy, builds on and supersedes the U.S. Government Interagency Domestic Terrorism Concept of Operations Plan and the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan. As the core operational plan for national incident management, the NRF establishes national-level coordinating structures, processes, and protocols that are incorporated into existing federal interagency incident or hazard-specific plans like the NCP and the emergency response assistance mandated by the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act (P.L. 93-288, as amended). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), is the primary coordinating agency for disaster response and recovery activities under the Stafford Act for DHS. FEMA has signed agreements to implement mandates under the Stafford Act with 27 federal departments and agencies and the American Red Cross.

The American Red Cross functions as a federal agency in coordinating the use of federal mass-care resources in a presidentially declared disaster or emergency. Under the Stafford Act, a governor may ask the president to declare a major disaster or an emergency if an event is beyond the combined response capabilities of the state and affected local governments.

Based on the findings of a joint federal-state-local Preliminary Damage Assessment indicating the damage is of sufficient severity and magnitude to warrant assistance under this act, assistance is then implemented by presidential declaration. No direct federal assistance is authorized prior to this declaration. In making a declaration to render federal assistance, the president designates a federal coordinating official (FCO) to coordinate the federal response.

If there is an event involving weapons of mass destruction or some other terrorist incident, those who caused the event have committed a federal criminal act. Under the Stafford Act, the president can declare an emergency and offer assistance without being asked to do so by a state governor. In this situation, the FBI representative on the scene will usually be designated the FCO to work with all of the agencies and organizations that respond to help with the emergency, the investigation of the event, and the recovery.

The NRF has emergency planning relationships with

The NRF is divided into two parts: the Basic Plan and the Emergency Support Function and Other Annexes. Regional support teams help implement the federal assistance programs and distribute supplies along with the emergency response team that supports the FCO in coordinating the overall federal disaster operation.

V. State and Local Plans


Creation of SERCs and LEPCs

The Union Carbide plant disaster in Bhopal, India, in 1984 resulted in action in the United States to review what emergency response capabilities were available at the local level. The Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) was passed in 1986. Title III of this act is known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). SARA and EPCRA are major pieces of federal legislation that authorized EPA and other federal agencies to issue regulations addressing emergency management needs. They have moved the United States ahead in preplanning for anticipated emergencies.

SARA, through EPCRA, requires every state to set up an infrastructure for preplanning for emergencies at the local level. The EPA regulations under EPCRA require each governor to appoint a state emergency response commission (SERC). After some difficulties in a few states, all states now have a SERC. The SERC divides the state into local planning districts. In most states, but not all, the existing counties or, in the case of Louisiana, the existing parishes, have been designated as the local planning districts.

What Is a Local Emergency Planning Committee?

The Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is to be the local source of information for its citizens on chemical hazards and related information within the community. An LEPC comprises representatives from every major organization that has anything to do with handling emergencies within the planning district. These representatives include

It is anticipated that by working together to develop an emergency response plan for their community, better coordination among these diverse groups will occur, and they will better understand each organization's role in helping the community in a disaster or other emergency.

Functions of LEPCs

The major cities have also been named as planning districts. Each district has its own LEPC, and each LEPC has a number of goals it is expected to meet under EPCRA. These include developing, with public involvement, an emergency response plan. Each plan must

More information on EPA's role is available on the EPA Web site and its "RCRA, Superfund & EPCRA Call Center" page (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

To suggest what chemical hazards to plan for, EPA published a list of substances that are extremely hazardous based on toxicity to humans. EPA also required employers that had such chemicals above the threshold quantities to report this fact to the LEPC and to the local fire department, using prescribed forms or listings.

LEPCs also received Tier One and Tier Two forms from businesses that had hazardous materials or hazardous substances requiring an OSHA material-safety data sheet (MSDS) when such materials were above the threshold planning quantity. OSHA has changed its hazard communication standard, and now the MSDS is known as a safety data sheet in the revised standard. Most businesses used the Tier Two form so they could report once instead of twice. (Businesses were required to report on a Tier One form that they had the materials. Then if the LEPC wanted additional information, it could request the Tier Two form, which had the location and other relevant information about the materials. So most businesses that had to send in a Tier One form just opted to send in the Tier Two and be done with the required reporting. Thus, they didn't have to wait for the LEPC to come back with a second request. The Tier Two had everything the Tier One had, plus the additional information on location.) Recently, EPA has requested additional information on Tier Two reports, including the number of people working at the facility, whether the facility is covered by the EPA Risk Management Rule Plan (RMP), and the current contact phone numbers and email addresses for facility contact persons.

Some SERCs also compiled a list of chemicals and where they were stored on plant sites, which is part of the Tier-Two form. The state SERC received the information and compiled a complete list of all the chemicals and which firms had them. This list would be used by state agencies and LEPCs. Some states, such as Maryland, require plant sites to update this list of chemicals every two years and send it to the State Department of the Environment.

To improve their overall effectiveness, LEPCs, in conducting the training drills and exercises described in their plans, coordinate with other agencies such as hospitals, which also must participate in training drills to keep their emergency room certifications from the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.

At the federal level, a support structure has been put in place to help SERCs and LEPCs and for other purposes. The NRT's regional response team structure follows the structure established by the federal government in providing services to the public through the 10 federal regions. The NRT's National Contingency Plan that was discussed earlier was created to coordinate the federal agencies' preparedness, planning, and response responsibilities on a national level.

SARA required the NRT to develop and publish guidance documents to help LEPCs develop, improve, and implement the emergency response plans for which they are responsible. In addition, several documents such as

provide a mechanism by which the SERC and the Federal Regional Response Team can review each LEPC plan. The LEPC is required to conduct an annual review of its emergency response plan. Find out more about EPA's emergency preparedness by going to its Web site and searching for LEPC (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

National Response Center

The National Response Center, which USCG operates 24 hours a day, seven days a week, receives reports of accidental oil-and-hazardous-substance and hazardous-materials incidents from across the nation. Some of these reports may trigger federal responses. Every spiller of a chemical at or above the reportable quantity has only 24 hours to report the spill to the National Response Center. Several EPA, USCG, and DOT regulations mandate the reporting of hazardous substance releases. The National Response Center compiles its reporting data and shares it with the public.

VI. Facility or Employer Plans

We will discuss the following facility or employer plans:

National Response Team's One Plan

Recently the NRT has developed the Integrated Contingency Plan Guidance (the One Plan), which integrates multiple federal regulatory requirements into one document. The One Plan is intended to be used by private enterprises to prepare emergency response plans for responding to releases of oil and nonradiological hazardous substances. The NRT is thus providing a mechanism for consolidating the multiple plans businesses may have prepared to comply with various federal and state regulations into one functional emergency response plan or integrated contingency plan (ICP).

The ICP brings together into one guidance document the following emergency response planning regulations:

For further details about these regulations on emergency response planning or to obtain copies, go to the EPA Web site and search for One Plan (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

The One Plan is organized into three major sections, "Plan Introduction Elements," "Core Plan Elements," and "Annexes," which are described below.

  1. "Plan Introduction Elements" includes the purpose and scope of the plan; the table of contents; general identification information about the location, owner, mailing address, and phone and fax numbers; key contacts for the plan; and other information.
  1. "Core Plan Elements" covers the initial actions to be taken by those who discover an emergency, the initial emergency response procedures for internal and external notifications, and the procedures for preliminary assessment of the emergency scene, such as type of hazard, magnitude, and areas threatened by the emergency. This section also covers the procedures for setting objectives and priorities for response, such as

    This section's guidance for private enterprises also must be interfaced with the LEPC's plan and, if appropriate, the Area Committee's Contingency Plan created under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA) section 4202(a)(6).

  1. "Annexes" contains a number of annexes that address the emergency response management system, including the command structure for managing an emergency incident or event. Most emergency response plans use the Incident Command System (ICS) or the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Both traditionally have a single incident commander supported by a command staff.

The NIMS includes both the ICS and the Unified Command System used for larger emergency responses in which representatives from the federal and state on-scene coordinators and the responsible party work together as the command structure. The Unified Command System allows all parties who have jurisdictional or functional responsibility for the incident to develop jointly a common set of objectives and strategies and to work together to carry them to conclusion. The Unified Command System is recognized in the National Contingency Plan developed by the NRT. Section III also covers salvage plans, waste management, financial aspects for the cost of the response, incident documentation, training and exercises or drills, and other subjects.


The EPA co-chairs the NRT and has many other emergency management responsibilities. The Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office is EPA's lead office for helping with emergency management issues. It has developed fact sheets, guidance documents, newsletters, and other materials to help interested organizations and individuals improve the level of emergency preparedness and planning. For more information on this office, go to the EPA Web site and search for Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Office (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

EPA has promulgated emergency management plan requirements for facilities to comply with under the following laws:

More details on the EPA's role in emergency management will be presented in modules 3 and 5.

The USCG, which is now a major part of DHS, is co-chair of the NRT and has many other emergency management responsibilities, including helping to protect American ports from terrorist attacks and saving lives on navigable waterways. The USCG, as mentioned earlier, operates the National Response Center, which receives all federally required reports of spills and accidental releases of hazardous materials, hazardous waste, oil and related products, chemicals, and so forth. It provides a toll-free number nationwide for persons to use in making their reports of releases at or above the established reportable quantity limits for the material in question. The responsible party must make the report within 24 hours of the release. For additional information on this center, go to the USCG Web site and search for National Response Center (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

The USCG is responsible for implementing the Oil Pollution Act requirements for the protection of U.S. waterways and ports. As part of the implementation efforts, area committees have been established for the major U.S. domestic ports, and each area committee performs duties similar to those of LEPCs. For more information on domestic port emergency planning, go to the USCG Web site and search for Area Committees (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

In addition to the area committees’ activities, the USCG has promulgated requirements for vessel owners to develop and implement vessel response plans; security measures for ships and ports; and requirements for port facility owners to develop and implement facility emergency response plans, including security measures.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security and FEMA

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was created in 2003 and was given cabinet-level status. FEMA, which had been an independent federal agency that coordinated the federal government's role in helping the states prepare for natural disasters and some man-made disasters, such as terrorist incidents or dam failures, has been merged completely into this new department. FEMA had taken over the role of the old Civil Defense Preparedness Program. State and local governments have created similar coordinating agencies.

Now DHS, using FEMA, serves as the lead agency in organizing assistance to other countries when a natural disaster occurs and the host country requests assistance from the United States. DHS established and maintains the National Response Framework document for the federal government mentioned earlier. DHS and FEMA provide some hazard mitigation planning and grant programs for prevention measures under the Stafford Act. DHS has also issued mandatory rules for Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards to enhance the security of chemical plant and oil refinery facilities (6 CFR 27, April 2007). These standards require facility owners to conduct security vulnerability assessments, develop site security plans, perform background checks on staff members, perform inspections and audits, and carry out other measures. For more details, go to the DHS Web site and search for chemical security (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

The National Fire Academy and Emergency Management Institute

The Department of Homeland Security and FEMA support emergency management efforts through training programs. The National Fire Academy (NFA) and the Emergency Management Institute (EMI), both based in Emmitsburg, Maryland, provide training for emergency responders. The National Fire Academy and the National Fire Administration of FEMA train the nation's fire service officer corps. The Emergency Management Institute trains emergency managers and law enforcement officials involved in handling emergencies in their local jurisdictions. For more information on the NFA and the EMI, go to the FEMA Web site and search for those terms (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration

The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the lead federal agency in tracking weather events that have the potential to destroy lives and property. The National Weather Service, an agency within NOAA, provides the weather watches and warning designations for potentially harmful weather events. For additional information, go to the NOAA Web site and click on the weather icon (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

NOAA has the past weather database that can be useful in determining what types of emergencies to cover in a contingency plan. NOAA helps directly in the emergency management arena because it supports emergency responders in several ways. First, it develops databases for chemical hazards and the necessary software to use them. This system is known as CAMEO II. For more information, go to the NOAA Web site and search for CAMEO (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

Second, NOAA can provide plume modeling for hazardous releases into the air or onto a waterway. This modeling can help determine the direction and hazard level of a vapor cloud or contaminant. NOAA's software to display the plume over relevant maps and the airborne software is called ALOHA. For more information, go to the NOAA Web site and search for ALOHA (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

Third, NOAA has relevant maps for each county in the country that can be downloaded and used by emergency responder organizations. These maps are in a software program known as MARPLOT. For more information, go to the NOAA Web site and search for MARPLOT (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

VII. Federal Disaster Investigative Agencies

Two independent federal agencies have the authority to investigate man-made disasters or incidents and to publish reports of their findings. Each is composed of a five-member board with a staff and teams that can be sent out to investigate incidents under their authority. These two agencies are

  1. the National Transportation Safety Board
  2. the Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

We will discuss each of these below.

National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has the authority to investigate any transportation incidents or disasters such as airplane crashes, train derailments, pipeline ruptures, and shipping incidents. The NTSB provides some transportation disaster assistance to victims and families that have been affected by a transportation incident. For information on NTSB investigations and their disaster assistance, go to the NTSB Web site (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board

The Chemical Safety and Hazard Investigation Board (the Chemical Board) has authority to investigate industrial and commercial non-transportation disasters or incidents. The Chemical Board's mission and reports can be found at its Web site (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

These investigative bodies send their representatives and investigators to the scene of an emergency incident. If any criminal activity is suspected, the FBI responds along with local authorities. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, now part of the U.S. Department of Justice, responds if explosives are thought to be involved in the event in some manner.

VIII. Brief Introduction to National Voluntary Standards, Trade Associations' Programs, and International Programs

Several national consensus-writing and standards-adopting organizations address topics related to emergency management. We will now describe these organizations.

National Voluntary Standards

National Fire Protection Association

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in Quincy, Massachusetts, has developed and published a variety of documents useful in the emergency management arena. These include emergency responder training standards, a model building code and fire prevention code, a standard on emergency services, an incident management system, disaster/emergency management and business-continuity programs, a recommended practice of pre-incident planning, and others. These documents have been made available to members of NFPA and others for voluntary use, and some have been used for regulatory purposes by government agencies. For additional information on NFPA, go to its Web site (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

American National Standards Institute

Another national consensus standards-writing and -adopting organization is the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). It has adopted a variety of safety standards and mechanical safety codes such as those for elevators and boilers that were developed by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. ANSI serves as the U.S. representative to the International Standards Organization (ISO), which works on developing worldwide standards for industrialized nations on a variety of topics including the ISO 14001 standard for Environmental Management Systems.

State and local governmental authorities do adopt as mandatory regulations many of the ANSI standards and NFPA codes for public safety that affect emergency preparedness and prevention requirements.

International Code Council

The International Code Council (ICC) was created by various model building code groups that wanted to develop a single model building code for the whole country to replace the old regional model building codes that were used in the last century. The Building Officials and Code Administrators International, Inc., the Southern Building Code Council, and others came together to develop the International Building Code, the International Fire Code, and other building code-related documents for use by building officials and code administrators at the local and state levels of government. The NFPA did not support some of the types of changes that were being made by the ICC in its development of the International Building Code, so it developed its own model building code and other building code support documents, which are mentioned above. For more information on the ICC, go to its Web site (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

Trade Association Programs

Many trade associations give their members guidelines and assistance to help them prepare to handle emergencies on their premises and to protect the general public. One such organization is the American Chemistry Council (ACC), which represents more than 90 percent of U.S. commercial chemical producers. It established and runs the Chemtrec 24-hour emergency response communication service that is recognized in the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook. Chemtrec is one of the primary sources of accurate and current chemical hazard information that is widely used by emergency responders across the United States.

Responsible Care Management System Program

The ACC initiated the Responsible Care Management System Program (Responsible Care) in the United States in 1988. The council requires all its members to implement this program, and it has been shared with other chemical manufacturing industries worldwide.

The Responsible Care Program has been expanded to include the transportation of chemicals. The ACC provides the Chemtrec system to support emergency responders, as well as the Transcaer program, which supports chemical transportation safety. Transcaer is a voluntary national outreach effort that helps communities that have major transportation routes within their jurisdictions, and the Chemtrec system provides emergency responders with information on members' chemical hazards, as well as other relevant information to enhance transportation safety.  Transcaer assists in planning, assessing, and revising a community’s hazardous-materials emergency response plan, and it can help with the training exercises that are used to evaluate the community plan. For more information, visit the ACC Web site and search for Responsible Care Program, or click the Safety tab to learn more about transportation safety and other safety topics (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

IX. International Programs

The United Nations (UN) has a number of programs that involve emergency management of man-made and natural disasters. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) have both developed documents to assist member nations in handling man-made emergencies. The OECD published the Guiding Principles for Chemical Accident Prevention, Preparedness and Response in 1992 as guidance for governments, industry, labor, and others in establishing programs and policies related to prevention of, preparedness for, and response to emergencies involving hazardous substances.

The ILO has developed and published convention No. C174, The Prevention of Major Industrial Accidents, which addresses the preplanning for and the response to major industrial disasters. This document also provides guidance for incidents that cross national borders. It establishes roles for government, industry representatives, and workers in handling on-site and off-site emergencies, among other subjects. This convention is written so that it can be adopted as a national code by the member states of the ILO. It is the first ILO convention to address public safety issues and environmental issues along with workplace issues. The ILO has developed and adopted other conventions, such as the C170 Chemicals Convention in 1990, the C155 Occupational Safety and Health Convention in 1981, and others, to assist ILO member states. The EPA Risk Management Program, under 40 CFR 68, and the OSHA Process Safety Management Program, under 29 CFR 1910.119, address the major components of the ILO C174 Convention for the United States.

The UN also adopted a convention on the "Transboundary Effects of Industrial Accidents" in 1992. This convention was developed to assist member nations in establishing formal governmental codes stating the procedures for handling emergencies involving unwanted hazardous chemical releases and other emergencies, with special emphasis on cross-border incidents to enhance greater cooperation and coordination among nations that share common borders. Additional information is available on the UN Web site (search for OECD). Also see the ILO Web site (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

The UN has many other activities involving

You can find more information on these topics by going to the UN Web site and searching for relevant terms.

Many of the UN efforts addressing these subjects have been put into a convention for the UN members to adopt as law for each member's nation. Complementary organizations such as the International Red Cross and the Red Crescent also provide their services during some of these related emergency events. Additional information on these voluntary international organizations will be provided in module 6.

X. Hazard Analysis, Risk Analysis, and Risk Management

Hazard Analysis

A hazard is something such as a chemical or process or weather event that can harm people, property, and/or the environment. The more serious the hazard, the greater its capacity to cause serious harm. The level of hazard depends on the characteristics or properties of the material, process, or event. These properties cannot typically be changed, but the severity of the exposure to them and the harm caused by them can be measured and must be controlled.

Hazard analysis is the process by which one evaluates those serious hazards that are present on the site and prioritizes them according to when they will be addressed and what means or methods are available or could be available to control them. Hazard analysis has three basic steps:

  1. identifying or recognizing the hazard and its location on the site
  1. understanding or assessing the hazard and its potential for harming people, property, and the environment (this step does not include any calculations on the frequency or probability of the event happening, only that it is present on the site and has the potential to cause serious harm to people, property or the environment)
  1. identifying readily available or obtainable controls that could reduce the severity of the exposure or contribute to mitigation of the hazard to people, property, or the environment

Various methodologies have been developed to systematize the approach to hazard analyses, ranging from somewhat unsophisticated methods to extremely complex models. Some examples of recognized methodologies are:

OSHA has required employers to use hazard analysis methods through its Process Safety Management standard, which was required by the Clean Air Act Amendments of 1990 (CAAA). 

EPA has used hazard analysis in selecting chemicals to designate as extremely hazardous substances under SARA and EPCRA. The list of extremely hazardous substances has been used as the starting point to collect information on the serious chemical hazards present in the local community and to begin developing the local emergency response plan, as was mentioned earlier. EPA has also used hazard analysis in implementing the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act (CERCLA) for determining which sites to include on the National Priorities List and for determining cleanup criteria for selected sites.

Risk Analysis

A risk differs conceptually from a hazard. Risk is the chance or probability of a hazardous event occurring. The more likely a hazardous event is to occur or the more frequent the occurrence, the greater the chance that people, property, or the environment will be adversely affected by the event. The two types of risk are acute and chronic risks. Acute risks normally have the potential to cause life-threatening harm to people at the beginning of the event. Chronic risk may only be a periodic equipment failure that disrupts a process because it occurs frequently.

Risk analysis is the process used to measure the probability of a hazardous event occurring. It includes the step of making a risk assessment, which, for example, separates the intrinsic properties of the chemical from the risk associated with some exposure level and its duration. The exposure level and time-of-exposure measurements may be based on estimates by experts in the field or on quantitative data collected over many years. No matter how well designed and reliable a control measure is, it is subject to some level of failure.

Risk Management

Risk management is the ranking of serious hazards to people, property, or the environment, and the use of risk analysis in making decisions about the cost effectiveness of instituting one control measure over another to help prevent or mitigate the hazardous event. Risk management evaluates available control measures to prevent the incident or to reduce the level of potential damage that could result from an incident.

The first priority in risk management is to prevent the hazardous event. If prevention is unsuccessful or impossible, then minimizing the potential damage becomes the priority. In conducting a risk analysis, risk management must consider both internal and external factors in recommending to management a course of action to follow to control the level of risk. Examples of internal risk factors are employee or public exposure levels and downtime resulting from a response to the emergency. External factors include the public's response (either positive or negative) to a hazardous event and the effect that response has on the organization's public image.

Risk management helps an organization's managers determine the sequence for controlling hazards and the control measures to implement given the available resources. Every private and public enterprise wants to get the most benefit for each dollar spent on hazard-control measures. When the controls fail and the alarms are sounded—whether they are automatic or manual procedural steps—emergency management is activated to bring the emergency event to the most satisfactory conclusion possible.

For information on the government mandates for risk management programs, see the EPA Risk Management Program requirements in 40 CFR 68, issued under the CAAA. Also, DHS has mandated (in 6 CFR 27) risk management programs for chemical facilities, as mentioned earlier.  Go to the DHS Web site and search for chemical security for more details (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus). EPA is also using risk management in implementing CERCLA and RCRA cleanup strategies and for determining the ranking of clean-up sites on the National Priorities List.

XI. The DOT Emergency Response Guidebook

The United States has entered into a treaty with Canada and Mexico, known as the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). Among other things, it addresses issues regarding the transportation of hazardous materials across borders. Emergencies that may occur at the borders are also part of an expanded understanding among the three nations about how they will cooperate to protect people, property, and the environment.

For many years, USCG and Canadian authorities have cooperated in controlling waterborne spills in the Great Lakes, waterways between Washington state and British Columbia, and those on the east coast of Maine. The NAFTA treaty has also formalized this cooperative effort between these two countries. All three countries have also contributed to the creation of the Emergency Response Guidebook, published by DOT's Research and Special Programs Administration. This guidebook is an essential reference used by emergency responders to chemical spills and transportation incidents involving hazardous materials in all three countries. It has been published in French, Spanish, and English and is typically updated every three years.

A number of federal regulations require the use of the Emergency Response Guidebook, and it has become one of the basic tools for emergency responders and those involved in transporting hazardous materials. For example, under the OSHA rule for Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) 29 CFR 1910.120, the first level of formal emergency responder training requires an understanding of the Emergency Response Guidebook and its use.

Congress mandated EPA to adopt the HAZWOPER rule as an EPA rule (in 40 CFR 311) to cover other emergency responders over whom OSHA has no jurisdiction. 

Using the Emergency Response Guidebook

The DOT Emergency Response Guidebook is color-coded to help first responders find essential information quickly in the event of an incident involving the transportation of hazardous materials. 

The yellow-bordered pages list the names of hazardous materials by ID numbers, given in numerical order, and give the corresponding guide numbers to use to find the safety recommendations. The names of hazardous materials that are extremely toxic are highlighted, and more information is given in the green-bordered pages.

The blue-bordered pages list the names of hazardous materials in alphabetical order and give the corresponding guide numbers to use to find the safety recommendations. The names of hazardous materials that are extremely toxic are highlighted, and more information is given in the green-bordered pages.

The orange-bordered pages give the safety recommendations and emergency response information for each guide number identified in the yellow-bordered and blue-bordered pages.

The green-bordered pages identify toxic materials by ID number and recommend safe distances from these materials according to whether the spill is large or small or whether it is night or day. They provide an initial isolation distance and a protective isolation distance.

Here is a brief summary of the steps to follow in using the ERG.

The Practical Applications component of this module has some problem scenarios where you can  practice using the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook

For additional information, go to the Web site of the DOT Emergency Response Guidebook (see the Relevant URLs list in the Additional Information section of the syllabus).

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