When a spill poses public safety and property threats via potential fires, explosions, toxic clouds, or other means, local officials are usually in command of the incident. The party responsible for the incident is required to cooperate with and aid the local police and fire agencies. At some facilities, the responsible party conducts the response; at other facilities and in transportation incidents where the responsible party may not have the specialized capability to address an incident, public agencies direct the response. If highly specialized activities such as off-loading tank cars or repackaging hazardous chemicals are required, the responsible party may implement the actions under the general direction of the local public safety commander.

In most States, the role of State agencies in public safety response during the early stages of an incident is to provide technical advice to local commanders as soon as possible. For spills occurring within an Indian reservation, the Tribe may be the primary responder for incidents at which an RP fails to act, or the Tribe may rely on local or State responders by prior agreement. During major incidents, State and Federal authorities may be able to provide additional assistance to the local commander at the spill scene by

  • conducting sampling and analysis of chemicals,
  • providing specialized contractors or equipment, or
  • providing detailed advice or other supporting functions.

Seldom will State or Federal authorities assume command from a local fire or police commander for short-term, on-site, public-safety-related issues.


A number of State and Federal programs require parties who are responsible for a spill to investigate and remedy all related environmental and health threats. Often these actions include activities on properties owned by third parties or public agencies. The actions usually begin somewhat later than the public safety protection response but can continue for a much longer period. The actions may include, but are not limited to the following:

  • placing containment and recovery booms and pads,
  • sampling runoff and rivers,
  • excavating soil,
  • sampling smoke,
  • performing hydrogeological investigations,
  • wildlife rescue and rehabilitation,
  • closing drinking water intakes, and
  • providing an alternate water supply.

Sometimes an RP is unable or unwilling to adequately or quickly undertake the environmental and health protection actions required by State or Federal authorities. In those cases, State or Federal authorities can assume a more direct role. Usually this is done through investigation or cleanup contractors using governmental funds, such as State or Federal Superfunds or the Oil Spill Liability Trust Fund (OSLTF). The costs of these direct government actions will usually be recovered later from the responsible party. The decision to assume governmental control of environmental and health follow-up of an incident is dependent on

  • the ability and willingness of the responsible party to respond effectively,
  • the severity of the incident,
  • the cost and duration of required actions, and
  • the resources available to the various levels of government.

The following sections describe the federal response efforts shared by OSCs, Regional Response Team, federal agencies, and subarea contingency plans.


The Federal OSC directs Federal response efforts and coordinates all other Federal efforts at the scene of a discharge or release. The OSC may monitor local, Tribal, State, or private actions to remove a discharge, and may provide technical assistance to local, Tribal, State, or RP response personnel.

If a response action is being conducted through local, Tribal, State, or responsible party efforts, the OSC will ensure adequate oversight. If local, Tribal, or State agencies or the responsible party cannot or will not initiate action to eliminate the threat, or if the removal is not being conducted properly, the OSC should advise the government agency or responsible party and take appropriate actions to mitigate or remove the threat or discharge.

When the OSC has determined that a discharge poses or may present a substantial threat to public health or welfare, he/she is authorized by the NCP to direct all private, State, or Federal actions to remove the discharge or to mitigate or prevent the threat of such a discharge. In addition, the OSC may remove or arrange for the removal of the discharge to mitigate or prevent the substantial threat of the discharge; the OSC may remove and, if necessary, destroy a vessel that is discharging or threatening to discharge, without regard for any other provision of law governing contracting procedures or employment of personnel by the Federal Government (40 CFR 300.322).

Under Subpart C of the NCP, an OSC is responsible for directing the AC to develop an ACP that provides for a well-coordinated response that is integrated and compatible, to the greatest extent possible, with all appropriate response plans of state, local, and non-federal entities, and especially with Title III local emergency response plans. In addition to the sections of this RCP/ACP that discuss integration of plans, each subarea contingency plan describes in detail the responsibilities of RPs and of Federal, State, and local agencies in removing a discharge, and in mitigating or preventing a substantial threat of a discharge.

Subpart D of the NCP sets forth the operational response phases for oil removal, which include:

Phase I -- Discovery or notification.
Phase II -- Preliminary assessment and initiation of action.
Phase III -- Containment, countermeasures, cleanup, and disposal.
Phase IV -- Documentation and cost recovery.

Subpart D of the NCP also provides the general pattern of response, as well as wildlife conservation and funding provisions for an OSC to follow.

Consistent with the NCP and this ACP, upon receipt of notification of a discharge or release, the OSC is responsible for conducting a preliminary assessment to determine the following:

  • threat to human health and the environment;
  • whether the discharge is a WCD;
  • whether due to its severity, size, location, actual or potential impact on the public health and welfare or the environment, or the necessary response efforts are so complex that it requires extraordinary coordination to contain or clean up the discharge (i.e., whether it’s a spill of national significance [SON]);
  • the party responsible for the spill and its capability to conduct removal that is consistent with the NCP and this ACP; and
  • feasibility of removal or the mitigation of impact.

After the preliminary assessment the OSC will:

  • Notify and coordinate with the appropriate State and Federal Agencies. OSC notification responsibilities are discussed in further detail in subsection 2.10 of this plan.
  • Determine whether proper response actions have been initiated. If the RP for the release or discharge does not act promptly in accordance with the directions of the OSC or does not take actions, consistent with the NCP or ACP or if the party is unknown, the OSC shall respond in accordance with provisions of the NCP and agency guidance, and coordinate activities as outlined in this RCP/ACP.
  • Collect information concerning the discharge or release:
    • its source and cause;
    • potentially responsible parties;
    • the nature, amount, location, direction, and time of discharge;
    • pathways to human and environmental exposure;
    • potential impact on human health, welfare, and safety, and the environment;
    • possible impact on natural resources and property;
    • priorities for protecting human health and welfare and the environment; and
    • estimated cost for the response.
  • Certify the financial responsibility of vessel owners and operators.
  • Consult with and inform the RRT5 members of reported discharges and releases through Pollution Reports in Message Format (POLREPs).
  • Consult with the appropriate Regional or District office regarding situations potentially requiring temporary or permanent relocation.
  • In the event of a declared Federal disaster, coordinate with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Federal Coordinating Officer (FCO) as appropriate.
  • Implement appropriate community relations activities.
  • Address worker health and safety issues prior to and during a response operation, and comply with all worker health and safety regulations.
  • Coordinate with the Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR), as deemed necessary, regarding possible public health threats.
  • Coordinate with the US EPA Office of Radiation and Indoor Air (ORIA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) in emergencies involving radiological hazards.

The NCP also mandates that the OSC be responsible for ensuring that oil and contaminated materials recovered in cleanup operations are disposed of in accordance with the RCP/ACP, and any applicable laws, regulations, or requirements.

As requested by the NRT or RRT5, the OSC shall submit to the RRT5 a complete report on the removal operation and the actions taken.

The report shall record:

  • the situation as it develops,
  • the actions taken,
  • the resources committed, and
  • the problems encountered.

Regional Response Teams are responsible for regional planning and preparedness activities, as well as for coordination of assistance and advice to the OSC during site-specific incidents. The Co-Chairs of RRT5 are the Chief of the Emergency Response Branch, EPA Region 5 and the Incident Management and Preparedness Advisor (IMPA), Ninth Coast Guard District. The RRT5 membership includes representatives from each State appointed by the Governor, and the designated regional representatives of the following Federal Agencies:

Federal RRT5 member agencies have duties established by Statute or Executive Order that may apply to Federal response actions following or in prevention of a discharge of oil or a release or threat of release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. The RRT5 also functions as the Area Committee for Inland Region 5.

The principal components of the RRT5 are a standing RRT and incident specific RRTs. The standing RRT consists of designated representatives from each participating Federal Agency listed above and each State. Each incident specific RRT is formed from the standing team when the RRT is activated for a response, and consists of representatives of appropriate local governments, State agencies, and Federal Agencies.

Each member agency should designate one member and at least one alternate member to the standing RRT. Agencies whose regional subdivisions do not correspond to the standard Federal Regions may designate additional representatives to the standing RRT to ensure appropriate coverage of the standard Federal Region. Federally recognized Native American Tribal governments may arrange for representation on the RRT. Other interested parties may attend and observe RRT meetings. The usual process by which the RRT reaches its decisions is by consensus. However, in instances where a decision is reached by means of a vote, the voting capacity of each Federal member agency and other RRT member organizations is limited to one vote per member agency or organization.

The first Federal official affiliated with an RRT agency to arrive at the scene of a discharge or release, provided they have the proper training, should coordinate activities under the NCP, this RCP/ACP, and agency guidance until the predesignated OSC is available. That Federal official should consult directly with the predesignated OSC regarding any necessary initial actions. Fund-financed operations must be authorized by the OSC prior to implementation.


The Federal Agencies listed in this section have duties established by statute, executive order, or Presidential directive which may apply to Federal response actions following, or in prevention of, the discharge of oil or release of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Some of these agencies also have duties relating to the rehabilitation, restoration, or replacement of natural resources injured or lost as a result of such discharge or release. It is recognized that Native American authorities, responders, and communities are entitled to the same cooperation and protection arrangements as the States.


The U.S. Forest Service is the designated USDA representative to RRT. USDA maintains a Regional Emergency Team in each of the 10 Standard Federal Regions to provide liaison and coordination with Federal Agencies operating on a Regional basis. Regional Emergency Teams are composed of representatives of USDA agencies having essential emergency functions at the Regional level. These are:

  • Forest Service (FS): Responsible for prevention and control of fires in rural areas, in cooperation with State Foresters and appropriate Federal Agencies; emergency production, availability, and utilization of timber and timber products in cooperation with the Department of Commerce. The agency has capabilities to provide emergency communications systems, specialized aircraft, and human support facilities for large groups of people, and has specially trained incident management teams.
  • Food and Nutrition Service (FNS): Through the Food Distribution Program, provides food as emergency assistance to disaster victims. In appropriate emergency situations, FNS will authorize State agencies to issue food stamps based on emergency procedure.
  • Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS): Tests meat and poultry products for the presence of volatile drugs, chemical residues and other adulterants.
  • Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS): Provides expertise on plant and animal diseases and health.
  • National Agricultural Statistics Service: Serves as a source of data on crops, livestock, poultry, dairy products and labor. State Statistical Offices collect and publish local information on these topics.

DOC, through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has three roles within Region 5:

  1. Scientific Support Coordinator (SSC): In accordance with the NCP, the SSC provides scientific advice to support the Federal OSC in operational decisions that will protect the environment effectively, mitigate collateral harm, and facilitate environmental recovery. The SSC advises on other technical issues (as requested by the OSC) after consulting with the appropriate NOAA Emergency Response Division (ERD) resources or other Federal, State, or academic networks. This includes considering advice from the trustee agencies (including the NOAA ERD RRT member), and any divergent opinions.
  1. National Resource Trustee: The Secretary of Commerce acts as trustee for natural resources managed or controlled by DOC, including their supporting ecosystems. 40 CFR 300.600(b), (b)(1). Pursuant to the Great Lakes Critical Programs Act of 1990, 33 USC 1268 (Great Lakes Act), and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement of 1978, as amended by the Water Quality Agreement of 1987 (Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement), the United States, in part through DOC, manages and/or controls the water and sediments of the Great Lakes System.

The Secretary of Commerce also acts as trustee for natural resources managed or controlled by other federal agencies that are found in, under, or using waters navigable by deep draft vessels, tidally influenced waters, or waters of the contiguous zone, the exclusive economic zone, and the outer continental shelf. All federally managed or controlled resources that are found in these waters, such as water and sediments that form navigation channels and that are managed, controlled, and maintained by the Army Corps of Engineers, and the fisheries that are controlled by the Food and Drug Administration through derivation of action levels, fall within DOC trusteeship. Similarly, the water and sediment of the Great Lakes System are within the administrative jurisdiction of the United States, and are federally managed or controlled pursuant to the Great Lakes Act and the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement.

The Secretary has delegated his authority to act as trustee to the Administrator of NOAA. Pursuant to these delegations, NOAA has trusteeship for the water, sediment, and biological resources of the Great Lakes and their supporting ecosystems. The NCP also cites as examples of DOC trusteeship the following natural resources and their supporting ecosystems: migratory birds, anadromous fish, and endangered species and marine mammals. 40 CFR 300.600(b)(1), (b)(2).

Under OPA and the NCP, NOAA has specific responsibilities as a natural resource trustee that include

  1. Receiving notification of potential or actual spills threatening NOAA resources
  2. Being consulted on the preparation of the fish and wildlife and sensitive environments annex (this includes concurring on specific countermeasures or removal actions during the contingency planning phase)
  3. Being consulted on removal actions during an incident
  4. Implementing damage assessment activities

All of these activities are intended to minimize impacts and to restore the environment.

RRT Member: Has the primary goal to support the appropriate RRT Co-Chair who supports the Federal OSC by providing advice and resources that will protect the environment effectively, mitigate collateral harm, and facilitate environmental recovery.

Carries out this goal by:

  1. serving as an access point to other DOC resources and expertise, usually outside NOAA HAZMAT, that have primary roles in carrying out NOAA’s trusteeship role during spills;
  2. representing DOC in carrying out its policy responsibilities (such as trusteeship);
  3. helping the NOAA SSC provide technical assistance, if needed; and
  4. representing NOAA HAZMAT at meetings where the SSC cannot be present.

This member can provide:

  • scientific expertise on living aquatic resources for which DOC is responsible
  • current and predicted meteorological, hydrologic, ice, and limnologic conditions
  • charts and maps
  • communication services to the general public, various levels of government, and the media via its NOAA weather wire and NOAA weather radio systems

These roles are the responsibility of all DOC representatives, whether from NOAA HAZMAT, NOAA National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), or NOAA National Weather Service (NWS).


DOD, consistent with its operational requirements, may provide assistance in critical oil and hazardous materials incidents, the maintenance of navigation channels, and removal and salvage of navigation obstructions. DOD will provide the OSC and RRT5 Chair for releases occurring on DOD property or facilities and for all incidents involving DOD hazardous substances.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE): Has specialized equipment and personnel for maintaining navigation channels, for removing navigational obstructions, for accomplishing structural repairs, and for performing maintenance to hydropower electric generating equipment. USACE can also provide design services, perform construction, and provide contract writing and contract administration services for other Federal Agencies.

U. S. Navy—Navy Region Midwest: The Commander, Navy Region Midwest is designated as the OSC for planning, preparedness and response to Navy oil and hazardous substance incidents occurring in Region 5. Navy Region Midwest has near-shore response vessels and equipment to support Navy incidents and for designated Civilian Support roles. Support to non-Navy spills requires Presidential tasking, Regional Response Team/National Response Team tasking, or request for support through Memorandum of Agreement with the USCG. The Navy maintains on-water response assets (utility and boom handling boats, rapid response skimmer, and containment boom) and trained Oil Spill Operations Teams at Naval Station Great Lakes, Illinois that can be deployed throughout Region 5. The Navy also has onshore response equipment and trained staffs at Naval Support Activity Crane, Indiana and Naval Support Activity Mid-South, Tennessee. The Navy also has response capability for unexploded ordnance/ munitions response below the waterline at NSA Crane, Indiana.

U.S. Navy Supervisor of Salvage (SUPSALV): Is knowledgeable and experienced in ship salvage, shipboard damage control, diving, and has equipment for salvage-related and open-sea pollution incidents.


DOE provides the designated OSC/RPM for responses to releases on or from any facility or vessel under its jurisdiction. DOE administers, implements, and coordinates the Federal Radiological Monitoring and Assessment Center (FRMAC). Under the Federal Radiological Emergency Response Plan (FRERP), DOE provides advice and assistance to the RRT regarding the identification of the source and extent of radioactive contamination, and removal and disposal of radioactive releases.


FEMA requires the development, evaluation, and exercise of all-hazard contingency plans for all FEMA-funded jurisdictions at the State and local levels. SARA Title III plans are often annexes of the all-hazard plan. FEMA monitors and provides technical assistance regarding public sector emergency response training and planning for incidents involving hazardous materials. In a response, FEMA provides advice and assistance to the lead agency on coordinating relocation assistance and mitigation efforts with other Federal Agencies, State and local governments, and the private sector.

If the President declares a disaster or emergency, FEMA coordinates all Federal assistance, including temporary housing. The OSC coordinates with the Federal Coordinating Officer in situations where both authorities are active.

FEMA’s National Emergency Support Team and Regional Emergency Response Teams provide coordination of Federal response in situations of unique national significance, such as commercial nuclear power plant or nuclear weapons accidents and catastrophic natural disasters.


The U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) leverages the buying power of the federal government to acquire best value for taxpayers and its federal customers. GSA exercises responsible asset management. GSA delivers superior workplaces, quality acquisition services, and expert business solutions. GSA develops innovative and effective management policies.

In emergencies—as in everyday operations—GSA provides other federal agencies with what they need to do their jobs. GSA can go to the site of an incident and find suitable space for the response team to set up operations, furnish and equip the space, and set up telecommunications.

GSA is capable of providing:

  • Emergency relief supplies;
  • Facility space: GSA will ensure that a suitable operating facility, using pre-identified locations where applicable, is acquired and ready to occupy within 72 hours of receiving RRT5 requirements and/or RRT5 acceptance of the space.;
  • Office equipment: All required office furniture and equipment is provided from Federal inventories or commercial sources;
  • Office supplies: Office supplies and other expendables are provided from inventory or other government and commercial sources. Small businesses and vendors in the affected area are used whenever possible;

Telecommunications (in accordance with the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) National Plan for Telecommunications Support in Non-Wartime Emergencies);

  • Contracting services: Support is provided as required to augment RRT5 and other agency procurement functions on a case-by-case basis, using GSA contracting resources;
  • Transportation services including short term leasing arrangements and;
  • Personnel required to support immediate response activities: GSA makes available technical advisors (e.g., procurement, storage, transportation, and engineering advisory services specialists) in connection with damage surveys, appraisals, and building demolitions or repairs;
  • Support for requirements not specifically identified by other supporting agencies including excess and surplus property.

The GSA Regional Emergency Coordinator (REC) provides a team that may consist of one or more of the following: a REC and/or team leader, contracting officer, telecommunications specialist, and real estate/leasing specialist, if needed, to coordinate the provision of support at the incident site or operating location. Support may be furnished through GSA employees and contractor personnel who are located at the scene of the oil or hazardous material release, or at their regular duty stations, depending on the specific requirements of the emergency situation.

All acquisition and procurement activities by GSA are supported by written justification in accordance with current Federal laws and regulations (e.g., Federal Acquisition Regulations), which, when necessary, authorize other than "full and open competition." All procurement actions, including those for multimodal transportation services, are made in accordance with GSA’s statutory and administrative requirements, and use the appropriate fund citation/reimbursement procedures. Expenses incurred by GSA in providing requested assistance to other agencies must be reimbursed.


HHS assists with the assessment, preservation, and protection of human health and helps ensure the availability of essential human services. HHS provides technical and nontechnical assistance in the form of advice, guidance, and resources to other Federal Agencies, as well as to State and local governments.

The principal HHS response comes from the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS). Within PHS, the primary response to hazardous materials emergencies comes from ATSDR and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Both ATSDR and CDC have 24-hour emergency response capability whereby scientific and technical personnel are available to provide technical assistance to the lead Federal Agency and State and local response agencies on human health threat assessment and analysis, and exposure prevention and mitigation. Such assistance is used in situations requiring evacuation of affected areas, dealing with human exposure to hazardous materials, or advice on mitigation and prevention.

Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry: ATSDR is the lead Federal public health agency for hazardous material incidents under CERCLA. Two ATSDR representatives are assigned to each EPA Region to assist in US EPA/ATSDR communications. Regional representatives can also assist in emergency response events that involve RRT5 issues by coordinating with ATSDR headquarters Emergency Response and Consultation Branch and with the CDC RRT5 representative. Under CERCLA Section 104(i), ATSDR is required to

  • establish appropriate disease/exposure registries
  • provide medical care and testing of exposed individuals in public emergencies
  • develop, maintain, and provide information on health effects of toxic substances
  • conduct research to determine relationships between exposure to toxic substances and illness
  • develop guidelines, with US EPA, for toxicological profiles for hazardous substances
  • develop educational materials for health professionals related to health effects of toxic substances

Additionally, ATSDR operates a 24-hour phone line to address public health issues.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: CDC takes the lead during oil releases regulated under CWA and OPA. PHS has designated the CDC representative to the RRT5. This person is responsible for coordinating all public health responses on the Federal level and for coordinating all responses with State and local health agencies.

Other PHS agencies involved in support during hazardous materials incidents, either directly or through ATSDR/CDC, include the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), the Health Resources and Services Administration, the Indian Health Service, and the National Institutes of Health


DHS, through USCG, provides the Co-Chair of RRT5 and predesignated OSCs for the Great Lakes Coastal Zone and specified ports and harbors in Region 5, based on an MOU signed in 1992. Through USCG, the DHS

  1. supplies expertise in the domestic/international fields of
  • port safety and security
  • marine law enforcement, navigation, and construction
  • manning, operation, and safety of vessels and marine facilities
  1. maintains continuously manned facilities that are capable of command, control, and surveillance for oil or hazardous substances releases occurring on the waters of the United States, and may provide these services to the OSC