Getting the community involved in the problem of hazardous substances is a priority for EPA's Office of Emergency Management. Involvement occurs in different forms, but is always geared towards improving the public's understanding of the presence of hazardous substances in the community, and how to address any issues that may arise.
There are three main areas in which the program reaches out:
- Community Right-to-Know. Perhaps the most important area of outreach, the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) protects the safety of frontline emergency responders and keeps communities informed about the local presence and use of hazardous substances.
- Community Relations. Good communication fosters greater cooperation, and can even save lives. Through EPA's Emergency Response program, EPA places trained personnel in position to help local officials and citizens understand the circumstances of a release incident.
- Recognizing Releases. Due to the prevalence of contaminants, EPA provides guidance to the general public on how to recognize when a hazardous substance might be present and what individuals can do to respond. EPA also trains local emergency responders to help them identify and respond to hazardous substance emergencies.
In addition, EPA has made information on specific release incidents available through the Emergency Response Notification System (ERNS) database of reported releases at the National Response Center.