National Response Team
Response planning and coordination is accomplished at the federal level through the U.S. National Response Team (NRT), an interagency group co-chaired by the EPA and the U.S. Coast Guard. Although the NRT does not respond directly to incidents, it is responsible for three major activities related to managing responses:
The NRT also supports the Regional Response Teams (RRTs).
The NRT is responsible for distributing technical, financial, and operational information about hazardous substance releases and oil spills to all members of the team. Standing committees of the NRT and the topics that are addressed include:
- Response Committee, chaired by EPA, addresses issues such as response operations, technology employment during response, operational safety, and interagency facilitation of response issues (e.g., customs on transboundary issues). Response specific national policy/program coordination and capacity building also reside in this committee.
- Preparedness Committee, chaired by the U.S. Coast Guard, addresses issues such as preparedness training, monitoring exercises/drills, planning guidance, planning interoperability, and planning consistency issues. Preparedness specific national policy/program coordination and capacity building also reside in this committee.
- Science and Technology Committee, chaired by EPA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in alternating years, provides national coordination on issues that parallel those addressed by the Scientific Support Coordinator on an incident by incident basis. The focus of this committee is to identify technology and mechanisms to apply and enhance operational response. The committee monitors research and development of response technologies and provides relevant information to the RRTs and other members of the National Response System to assist in the use of such technologies.
The NRT ensures that the roles of federal agencies during an emergency response are clearly outlined in the National Contingency Plan (see the National Oil and Hazardous Substances Pollution Contingency Plan Overview). After a major incident, the effectiveness of the response is carefully assessed by the NRT. The NRT may use information gathered from the assessment to make recommendations for improving the National Contingency Plan and the National Response System. The NRT may be asked to help RRTs develop Regional Contingency Plans. The NRT also reviews these plans to determine whether they comply with federal policies on emergency response.
Training is the key to the federal strategy to prepare for oil spills or hazardous substance releases. Although most training is performed by state and local personnel, the NRT develops training courses and programs, coordinates federal training efforts, and provides information to regional, state, and local officials about training needs and courses.
The NRT supports RRTs by reviewing Regional or Area Contingency Plans to maintain consistency with national policies on emergency response. The NRT also supports RRTs by monitoring and assessing RRT effectiveness during an incident. The NRT can ask an RRT to focus on specific lessons learned from a particular incident and to share those lessons with other members of the National Response System. This allows the RRTs to improve their own regional contingency plans while helping solve problems that might occur elsewhere within the National Response System.