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Radiation Emergencies
Emergency Response:

National Contingency Plan

Emergency Preparedness
and Response

The National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan (40 CFR 300), more commonly called the National Contingency Plan or NCP, is the federal government's plan for responding to both oil spills and releases of hazardous substances (including radioactive materials). The NCP is at the heart of the National Response System, under which federal departments and agencies help state and local officials protect public health and the environment during hazardous materials emergencies.

The intent of the NCP is to develop a national response capability and promote overall coordination among the hierarchy of emergency response organizations and response or contingency plans. The NCP is incorporated into the National Response Framework through both Emergency Support Function Annex #10 and the Oil and Hazardous Materials Incident Annex.


The NCP was originally established to respond to oil spills. However, following issuance of the Clean Water Act of 1972, the NCP was broadened to include hazardous substance releases (actual and potential). In 1980, the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act, more commonly known as "Superfund," resulted in further broadening of the NCP to include emergency removal actions at hazardous waste sites.

How the NCP works

The NCP establishes three organizational levels:

On-Scene Coordinators (OSCs) assess whether local emergency response organizations have the resources and capabilities to handle an emergency. If necessary, the OSC can rapidly assemble an array of technical resources from federal agencies. These include EPA's Radiological Emergency Response Team, typically referred to as "the RERT."

There are 13 Regional Response Teams, one for each of the 10 federal regions, plus one each for Alaska, the Caribbean, and the Pacific Basin. RRTs have both preparedness and response roles, and each RRT maintains a Regional Contingency Plan for responding to incidents under the NCP. The RRTs include federal and state personnel and are available during incidents to provide assistance to On-Scene Coordinators.

The National Response Team's membership represents 16 federal agencies that have responsibilities, interest, and expertise in various aspects of emergency response to pollution incidents. The NRT provides policy guidance prior to an incident and can provide assistance during an incident if requested by an On-Scene Coordinator or Regional Response Team.

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