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Emergency Response Policy Forum
The 1985 Annex II of the La Paz Agreement establishes cooperative measures for preparing and responding to oil and hazardous substance incidents along the Mexico-United States (U.S.) inland border. The agreement also requires a Joint Contingency Plan (JCP) which was developed in 1988 and signed in 1999. An updated version was finalized and signed in 2008. This version is currently being updated based on Objective 1, as seen below, of the new Border 2020 Program. The Mexico-U.S. JCP has provided the foundation for the 15 Sister Cities Bi-national Emergency Response Plans that have been developed over the last several years. The Emergency Preparedness and Response workgroup is co-chaired by U.S. EPA’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Mexico’s Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA-Office of the Federal Attorney General for Environmental Protection), and Secretaria de Gobernación, Coordinación General de Protección Civil (Mexico’s Office of Civil Protection).
The Joint Response Team (JRT), another La Paz Agreement requirement, is also co-chaired by Mexico’s PROFEPA, Protección Civil, and U.S. EPA’s OEM. Additional JRT partners include representatives from other U.S. and Mexican federal agencies, including state, Tribal and local offices responsible for emergency prevention, preparedness, and response in the border region. The workgroup essentially functions as the steering committee of the Joint Response Team (JRT). The work of the JRT is supported by a notification system for the binational reporting of emergency response incidents, drills, and threats; local Emergency Response Plans developed jointly by sister cities along the border; certified training courses; and analyses of potential risks in the border region.
Both countries have increased coordination with their federal, state and local partners and thanks to this collaboration many of the millions of residents within the border region will benefit from improved training, state-of-the-art equipment, and enhanced emergency response capabilities for both countries. These actions fulfill numerous U.S. and Mexican objectives, the U.S./Mexico Border 2020 Goal 4 to “Enhance Joint Readiness for Environmental Response.” In addition, EPA, PROFEPA and Protección Civil agreed to jointly enhance border notification and agency communication protocols to expand participation of all stakeholders in the Policy Forum and Task Forces.
Objective 1: Update as necessary, the current Mexico-US Joint Contingency Plan and on an annual basis, continue to evaluate and update the emergency notification mechanism between Mexico and the United States.
A notification mechanism was established as part of the 2008 United States-Mexico Joint Contingency Plan. However, it must be further revised, updated, and exercised in order to reflect changes in technology and protocol.
Objective 2: By 2020, at least eight (8) of the sister city joint contingency plans will be supplemented with preparedness and prevention related activities such as certified training, risk analysis, and/or capacity building.
With the completion of 15 sister city plans, the JRT is working to expand preparedness efforts. While some risk identification has been completed by both Mexico and the United States, such as commodity flow studies and hazard analysis, the JRT is working on a more coordinated plan of action for risk identification and reduction in order to better protect border communities from chemical accidents.
Objective 3: By 2016, the US-Mexico JRT will make available technical outreach and training materials for distribution and dissemination along the border.
As we enhance coordination with federal, state and local partners as well as with border residents we encourage improved training, the use of state-of-the-art equipment, and enhanced emergency response capabilities of our border partners by providing capacity building materials that will enhance response readiness, cross-border coordination, and training continuance for responders and counterparts.
Objective 4: By 2016, the US-Mexico JRT will analyze existing agreements (including sister city plans) that allow trans-boundary movement of equipment and personnel for comparison purposes.
Based on the La Paz Agreement, the U.S. and Mexico support each other during incidents that may occur along the shared international borders. U.S and Mexican personnel and equipment may cross the borders to respond to border environmental emergencies. EPA and local responders also work with Mexican counterparts to perform joint exercises of contingency plans and discuss preparedness and response issues. These preparedness activities as well as responses to real world incidents necessitate liability coverage and expediting cross-border travel of personnel and equipment for both countries.