There are many things that we can do to be ready for the possibility of a hazardous substance release. EPA recognizes that good communication is essential to keeping local officials and citizens informed during an emergency response action, and that public involvement can help to save lives should an evacuation or other emergency response action be required. EPA's community relations program has several objectives:
- To provide information to the community on the health and environmental effects of the release and the response actions under consideration;
- To encourage citizens to provide information about the site and its surrounding areas and to express any concerns about the actions being undertaken; and
- To include citizen comments and concerns in the decision-making process at an emergency response site.
An official EPA spokesperson is appointed for each emergency response action to keep the public informed and to respond to any questions. Meeting with citizens in the community, responding to inquiries from the media, and providing local officials with site status information are some of the activities that EPA is likely to undertake, although some situations have warranted more sophisticated efforts to keep the public informed. EPA also establishes a written record that contains information about the emergency response action and makes this record available to the public.
EPA has taken several other steps to promote community involvement to ensure that local communities are adequately informed about hazardous substances and are prepared to respond to their accidental release.