What Is an Emergency Coordinator?

Posted on 10/28/2014 by Lion Staff

Natural disasters, fires, industrial accidents, and other calamities are tragic. When hazardous waste is involved, these tragedies can be catastrophic. Because these events can happen without warning, the US EPA requires large quantity generators (LQGs) of hazardous waste and treatment, storage, and disposal facilities (TSDFs) to have a written contingency plan and a designated emergency coordinator (EC) to implement the plan. [40 CFR 265, Subpart D]

Emergency coordinators have essential and far-reaching responsibility for emergency response: directing personnel response actions, coordinating with outside agencies, and otherwise implementing the contingency plan. It's critical that facility managers understand what the rules are and how they work, who the emergency coordinator is at their site, and the emergency coordinator's responsibilities in an emergency.

The Emergency Coordinator's Responsibilities

First, and perhaps most importantly, the coordinator must be on premises or able to reach the facility within a short period of time. What constitutes "a short period of time" is not specifically defined in 40 CFR 265; appropriate response times may vary based on the site's type and quantity of waste, as well as the complexity of the processes and layout at the facility. Keep in mind that facility responders as well as outside responders such as police, fire departments, and local emergency response teams often defer to the EC's unique knowledge of the wastes and facility. Any unnecessary delay may negatively impact their ability to respond appropriately to the emergency.

The regulations at 40 CFR 265.55 state that the "…emergency coordinator must be thoroughly familiar with all aspects of the facility's contingency plan, all operations and activities at the facility, the location and characteristics of waste handled, the location of all records within the facility, and the facility layout. In addition, this person must have the authority to commit the resources needed to carry out the contingency plan."

The responsibilities for the EC are specified in detail at 40 CFR 265.56. The EC's responsibilities for implementing the contingency plan must be covered by the initial and annual training required for "hazardous waste personnel" per 40 CFR 265.16.

Four Steps for Implementing Your Contingency Plan

STEP 1 - Assessment

The EC must determine whether there is an imminent or actual emergency. If there is, he must immediately notify all facility personnel by activating facility alarms or communication systems. He is also required to notify appropriate State or local agencies if he determines their help is needed.

If the emergency consists of an actual release, fire, or explosion, the EC must immediately identify the released materials':
  • Character,
  • Exact source,
  • Amount, and
  • Affected areas.
At the same time, the EC must assess possible hazards to human health and the environment by considering such things as the effects of any toxic, irritating, or asphyxiating gases generated and hazardous surface water run-off generated from water, chemicals, or fire-fighting agents. [40 CFR 265.56(a)-(c)]

STEP 2 - Report

If the EC determines the fire, explosion, or release could have off-site impact, she must call the National Response Center at 800-424-8802 (or the governmental official designated as the on-scene coordinator for that geographical area). The report must include:
  • Name and telephone number of reporter;
  • Name and address of facility;
  • Time and type of incident (e.g., release, fire);
  • Name and quantity of material(s) involved, to the extent known;
  • Extent of injuries, if any; and
  • Possible hazards to human health, or the environment, outside of the facility.
In addition, if the EC believes an evacuation may be necessary, she must immediately notify local authorities and be available for assistance. [40 CFR 265.56(d)]

STEP 3 - Mitigate

The EC should take measures to keep fires, explosions, and releases from occurring or reoccurring and keep them from spreading to other hazardous wastes stored on site. He may accomplish this by shutting down processes and operations, containing and cleaning up releases, or physically moving or isolating other containers.

If operations cease, the EC must monitor valves, pipes, and other equipment for leaks and ruptures, pressure buildup, and off gassing. [40 CFR 265.56(e)-(f)]

STEP 4 - Follow-up

If any hazardous waste (e.g., contaminated soil or surface water) was generated from emergency response actions, the EC must provide for the appropriate treatment, storage, or disposal of that recovered waste and must ensure that cleanup procedures are completed.

Any emergency equipment, such as fire extinguishers, hoses, and decontamination equipment that were listed in the site's written contingency plan must be cleaned and/or returned to a condition making it fit for its intended use before site operations commence anew. [40 CFR 265.56(g)-(h)]

The time, date, and details of an incident requiring the implementation of the contingency plan must be noted in the site's operating records.

Finally, a written incident report must be sent to the Regional Administrator or State-approved agency within 15 days of the emergency. (For content requirements, see 40 CFR 265.56(i)(1)-(7).)

In Summary

The emergency coordinator's preparedness and knowledge not only help protect the environment, but can also save lives. In the event of an emergency, it's critical that all employees at the facility, especially the emergency coordinator, are ready and able to fulfill their responsibilities.

Be confident your emergency coordinator, site managers, operators, and other personnel know their responsibilities for managing and storing waste under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA). The Hazardous/Toxic Waste Management Workshop is designed to satisfy the EPA's annual training standard for hazardous waste personnel and covers the rules your team must know to ensure compliance. Fines for noncompliance with RCRA are as high as $37,500 per day, per violation.

Tags: hazarous, RCRA, recordkeeping, reporting, waste

Find a Post

Compliance Archives

Lion - Quotes

The instructor kept the class engaged and made learning fun. There was a lot of information to cover but time flew by. I will definitely use Lion in the future!

Chelsea Minguela

Hazmat Shipping Professional

The instructor clearly enjoys his job and transmits that enthusiasm. He made a dry subject very interesting and fun.

Teresa Arellanes

EHS Manager

I tried other environmental training providers, but they were all sub-standard compared to Lion. I will not stray from Lion again!

Sara Sills

Environmental Specialist

I really enjoy your workshops. Thank you for such a great program and all the help Lion has provided me over the years!

George Chatman

Hazardous Material Pharmacy Technician

I had a positive experience utilizing this educational program. It was very informative, convenient, and rewarding from a career perspective.

John Gratacos

Logistics Manager

The instructor took a rather drab set of topics and brought them to life with realistic real-life examples.

Tom Berndt

HSE Coordinator

Very good. I have always appreciated the way Lion Tech develops, presents and provides training and materials.

John Troy

Environmental Specialist

I used the IT support number available and my issue was resolved within a few minutes. I don't see anything that could have made it better.

Danny Province

EHS Professional

These are the best commercial course references I have seen (10+ years). Great job!

Ed Grzybowski

EHS & Facility Engineer

The instructor's energy, enthusiasm, and knowledge of the subject make the class a great learning experience!

Brian Martinez

Warehouse Operator

Download Our Latest Whitepaper

Use this guide to spot which tanks and substances are regulated under EPA's Underground Storage Tank program, and which are excluded as of October 2018.

Latest Whitepaper

By submitting your phone number, you agree to receive recurring marketing and training text messages. Consent to receive text messages is not required for any purchases. Text STOP at any time to cancel. Message and data rates may apply. View our Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.