Radiological Emergency Response Team
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The Radiological Emergency Response Team (RERT), based in EPA's Office of Radiation and Indoor Air and EPA’s Regional offices, responds to emergencies involving releases of radioactive materials. Working closely with EPA's Superfund Program as well as federal, state, and local agencies, the RERT responds to emergencies that can range from incidents at nuclear power plants, to transportation accidents involving shipments of radioactive materials, to deliberate acts of nuclear terrorism.
- What does RERT do during a radiological emergency?
- How quickly can the RERT respond?
- How does the RERT prepare for emergencies?
- How big is the RERT?
- What kinds of specialists are in the emergency response program?
- Where are these specialists located?
- What type of equipment and vehicles does the RERT use?
- What role do EPA's other radiation facilities play?
The RERT coordinates or assists federal, state, tribal, and local response efforts before, during, and following a radiological incident by providing support in various forms:
- technical advice and assistance to prevent or minimize threats to public health and the environment
- advice on protective measures to ensure public health and safety
- assessments of any release for dose and impact to public health and the environment
- monitoring, sampling, laboratory analyses and data assessments to assess and characterize environmental impact (Staff from EPA's National Analytical Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) and its National Center for Radiation Field Operations (NCRFO) provide monitoring and assessment services both at the laboratory and at the response site, if needed.)
- technical advice and assistance for containment, cleanup, restoration, and recovery following a radiological incident.
You can learn more about EPA's role in responding to radiological emergencies from the How We Respond pages.
Field teams (teams that go to the scene of the emergency) will deploy as quickly as possible after notification. Shortly after arriving at the scene, the RERT begins environmental measurement and guidance activities. They begin monitoring, sampling, and laboratory analysis. They also advise state and local authorities on protecting local residents from exposure to harmful radiation levels.
If needed, the RERT can drive its mobile emergency response laboratories and support equipment to any site in the United States within 2 to 4 days.
To maintain readiness, the RERT works with other federal agencies and state and local governments to develop and fine tune plans for responding to radiological and nuclear emergencies. To test these plans, RERT personnel annually update their multidisciplinary skills, conduct emergency response exercises, and provide training to other organizations charged with responding to radiological emergencies.
There are approximately 45 field-deployable members of the RERT stationed at EPA's facilities in Montgomery, Alabama and Las Vegas, Nevada. Additional support personnel are located at EPA headquarters in Washington, DC, and EPA's 10 regional offices.
EPA can send a few specialists or the entire RERT to an emergency site. Headquarters RERT members support field operations activities from the Agency's Emergency Operations Center in Washington, DC and other coordination centers. Headquarters members also serve on the Advisory Team for the Environment, Food and Health, which assesses emergency monitoring data and develops protective action recommendations.
Radiological emergencies require a multi-disciplinary team which can track, contain, and clean up a radioactive release, while protecting people and the environment around the emergency site. EPA's emergency response personnel include scientists and engineers, health physicists, laboratory staff, and other emergency response specialists:
Scientists and Engineers
These specialists monitor, measure, and track the type and amount of radiation released from an accident. They conduct on-site sampling and analyze the air, water, and soil to identify the kinds of radionuclides present. Then they send field samples to EPA's National Analytical Radiation Environmental Laboratories for additional analyses and verification of on-site results.
HPs study the effects of radiation on people and the environment. They recommend ways to protect both during an incident.
Laboratory staff analyzes the samples taken in the field by the scientists and engineers. They identify the kinds and amount of radionuclides in the environment around the incident.
Other Radiological Emergency Response Specialists
EPA's emergency response team includes other specialists who provide communications, logistical, and administrative support.
Radiological emergency response personnel are located across the country at EPA facilities:
- EPA Headquarters in Washington, DC
- EPA's Regional Offices throughout the country
- National Analytical Environmental Radiation Laboratory (NAREL), Laboratory, Montgomery, AL
- National Center for Radiation Field Operations (NCRFO), Las Vegas, NV.
The RERT provides protective equipment and personal dosimeters to protect the health and safety of members in the field. It also has handheld equipment used to survey the emergency area:
- alpha, beta, gamma and neutron survey instruments
- air sampling equipment
- exposure rate and dose instruments
- field gamma spectroscopy
- a mobile command post
- a mobile radiation laboratory
- sample preparation laboratory
- a van equipped to scan for gamma radiation.
These mobile facilities can be driven to the scene of an emergency. Local, satellite, and Internet-based communication capabilities help them keep in touch with response personnel from other agencies.
The National Analytical Radiation Environmental Laboratory (NAREL) in Montgomery, Alabama, and the National Center for Radiation Field Operations (NCRFO) in Las Vegas, Nevada, provide monitoring and assessment services at the lab and at the scene of an accident. Mobile laboratories are equipped for radioanalytical services, including gamma spectroscopy, alpha/beta analyses, and liquid scintillation analyses. RERT field staff send samples requiring more extensive analyses back to NAREL.
You can read more about these facilities’emergency response capabilities: