National Preparedness Month: Responsible Parties

In our third installment of preparedness month blog posts, we will discuss responsible parties. We often associate “responsible parties” with large scale incidents. However, the reality is that for every environmental incident, big or small, there is someone who is responsible, and thereby liable, for the cleanup. This is especially important for small business owners to know.

When an Office of Emergency Response responder arrives on-scene at an incident, one of their tasks is to try and identify a responsible party. For situations such as diesel spills resulting from an overturned tractor trailer, this is easier. Most trucking companies accept responsibility for accidents and move forward immediately with hiring an environmental contractor to mitigate the release.

For other cases, it is not so simple. For example, abandoned drums of chemicals that are left on the side of the road can be hard to trace back to a business or individual. In these cases, the Department is required to hire a cleanup contractor while an investigation into who owns the property is complete.

Business owners are responsible for the majority of what happens in your facility, including environmental incidents. For example, if you have a 500-gallon drum of sodium hypochlorite (aka bleach) outside your building and somehow you knock it over and it leaks into a stormwater drain — You would be responsible for reporting the discharge to the State Warning Point and hiring a contractor to clean up the release properly.

This brings us to the reoccurring theme in these blog posts –preparedness. As a business owner, be sure to know what potential hazards you have around, be vigilant when using chemicals, have a cleanup plan in place educate yourself on your environmental responsibility. It is crucial that businesses keep accurate and up to date inventory of chemicals stored in facilities. When responders arrive at emergency incidents, it is important for them to know what specific chemical components they are dealing with for their safety and when deciding how to best handle the situation.

In case you missed it, here are links to our first two posts: Introduction to OER and Hurricane prep.

 Also, check out the FEMA website for more information on National Preparedness Month.

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