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Your Environment. Your Health.

Emergency Response


fireman hosing down a burning building

Environmental emergencies are incidents or events that threaten public safety, health, and welfare and include hurricanes, floods, wildfires, industrial plant explosions, chemical spills, acts of terrorism, and others. While these events range in size, location, cause, and effect, most have an environmental component. Emergency response is the organizing, coordinating, and directing of available resources in order to respond to the event and bring the emergency under control. The goal of this coordinated response is to protect public health by minimizing the impact of the event on the community and the environment.

An emergency response plan must provide the resources and information needed to evaluate the human and environmental health impacts of the event, assess and reduce human exposures to contaminants, and develop science-based strategies for remediation and rebuilding. One example is the immediate response of NIEHS and other government agencies to the devastation and hardship caused by Hurricane Katrina. This included the establishment of a field hospital in Mississippi to meet the immediate health needs of the hurricane victims, as well as the development of a Geographic Information System to plot the locations of chemical plants, refineries, Superfund clean-up sites, and other potential hot spots of contamination where flooding occurred.

What is NIEHS Doing?

  • 14th Report on Carcinogens - A congressionally mandated, science-based, public health document that NTP prepares for the HHS Secretary. This cumulative report currently includes 248 listings of agents, substances, mixtures, and exposure circumstances that are known or reasonably anticipated to cause cancer in humans.
  • Biomarkers of Exposure to Hazardous Substances - Using chromatographic, biosensor and cell based technologies, researchers will determine the fate and transport of hazardous materials in ground water, surface water, and air as they move from toxic waste sites.
  • Disaster Preparedness & Response - The NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) has developed a number of training tools and other resources to assist awardees and program stakeholders in their disaster preparedness and response training efforts. Resources in this section are organized by disaster type.
  • Emergency Responders Basic Health & Safety Course(3MB) - Developed by grantee The New England Consortium.
  • Gulf Oil Spill Response Efforts - NIEHS activated programs throughout the institute to provide timely and responsive services following the Deepwater Horizon Gulf oil spill of 2010. NIEHS research efforts in this area continue.
  • HAZMAT Worker Training Program - The program funds nonprofit organizations with a demonstrated track record of providing high-quality occupational safety and health training to workers involved in handling hazardous materials or in responding to emergency releases of hazardous materials.
  • National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training - The National Clearinghouse for Worker Safety and Health Training is a national resource for hazardous waste worker curricula, technical reports, and weekly news on hazardous materials, waste operations, and emergency response. Funded by the NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP), the National Clearinghouse provides technical assistance to WTP staff, program awardees, and the general public.
  • Natural Disasters and Environmental Health: A Selected Bibliography(151KB)   - Select references relating to the impact of natural disasters on the environment, updated June 25, 2007.
  • Oil Spills - NIEHS Worker Training Program (WTP) awardees have provided resources, trainers, and subject matter expertise during many oil spill response and related cleanup operations. These resources provide health and safety information for workers involved in oil spill response and cleanup activities.

Further Reading

Stories from the Environmental Factor (NIEHS Newsletter)

Additional Resources

  • NLM Disaster Information Management Research Center - The National Library of Medicine (NLM) has established the Disaster Information Management Research Center (DIMRC) to provide access to quality disaster health information to the nation at all stages of preparation, response, mitigation and recovery. This website contains useful resources such as the directory of disaster and emergency-related government agencies and organizations and NLM Disaster Health Links with resources for disasters such as crude oils spills, hurricanes, floods and earthquakes. Website also includes tools for emergency responders.

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