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Hazardous Materials Threats

In most cases, the response to hazardous materials (HAZMAT) incidents is handled by the local jurisdiction, typically by the fire department and sometimes by a specialized HAZMAT team. Railroads contract with special HAZMAT companies to perform cleanup and remediation for a HAZMAT release.

TEMA has plans in place to respond to any HAZMAT spill on highways, rivers, rails or public property. The first responders are nearly always local city and county responders who are trained by TEMA. OSHA requires hazardous materials teams to be qualified based upon published standards in consolidated federal regulations (CFR) which then becomes law. TEMA provides specialized training for two levels of HAZMAT expertise, technician level and specialist level. TEMA routinely provides an area coordinator, who will usually also be a qualified HAZMAT technician or specialist, to assist or advise local jurisdictions with significant releases. TEMA will always support and back-up those responders with whatever resources or manpower that they might request. If necessary, TEMA will either contract HAZMAT companies, request federal resources and manpower to assist in the response or both.

TEMA will utilize any communications means available to notify the public of hazards caused by accidents or other HAZMAT release. Citizens will be notified by radio and television which will be first informed through public announcements, 911 services (24-hour warning points), TEMA warning networks with county emergency management agencies and by National Weather Service systems. Often, additional warnings may be provided by public sirens and electronic sign-boards.

TEMA can call out certain environmental personnel, such as the state's Department of Environment and Conservation Water Pollution Control Division, to assist local agencies in dealing with the consequences of releases. Additionally, TEMA routinely notifies the National Response Center of activities associated with HAZMAT releases in Tennessee. Frequently, state and local officials contact the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Coast Guard for assistance in dealing with technical aspects of HAZMAT incidents.

This is the federal, state and local chain-of-command. The national emergency management system calls this system ICS (Incident Command System) and NIMS (National Incident Management System). It works the same way in every city, county and state in the nation. The local, state and federal officials work very closely with the private or public transportation carriers to assure a quick and effective response. Often, the fastest clean-up can be achieved by privately-owned emergency HAZMAT companies hired by the transporters. The shipper or originating facility is responsible for the costs of the response and remediation of affected areas.

The information below is from the TEMP (Tennessee Emergency Management Plan).

TEMA's response actions in a HAZMAT incident:

1. Notify and dispatch appropriate local, state and federal personnel to assist with HAZMAT operations. 
2. Maintain logs and records concerning the incident and its events. 
3. Notify the National Response Center (NRC).
4. Contact the Chemical Emergency Transportation Center (CHEMTREC), if requested by local or state  response personnel.
5. Notify appropriate state Emergency Service Coordinators (ESC) or other contact personnel. 
6. Notify the FEMA Region IV Regional Response Team (and request assistance, if needed).
7. Coordinate response activities of mutual aid personnel/agencies, including fire and emergency medical service agencies. 
8. Provide information concerning extent and nature of the problem(s) to Emergency Service Function- Five (ESF-5) groups, which consists of the information and planning functions of agencies or authorities relevant or responding to the incident. 
9. Contact clean-up companies, shippers, and others with an interest in the incident, as requested by on-scene personnel. 
10. Initiate federal involvement (through appropriate regional office) if warranted. 
11. Task other agencies and ESFs as necessary to carry out missions. 
12. Develop priorities for response when multiple incidents are involved.