Coast Guard National Response Center
█ JUDSON KNIGHT
The Coast Guard National Response Center (CGNRC) is the sole national point of contact for reports of oil spills, as well as information regarding discharges of chemical, radiological, and biological discharges into the environment. As a unit of the Coast Guard, CGNRC is part of the Department of Transportation (DOT), but due to the significance of its function, it often reports directly to the president of the United States. The increased terrorist threat following the attacks of September 11, 2001, have only served to further its importance as part of the homeland security apparatus.
The federal government advises individuals who observe oil spills, or evidence of oil spills, in or around the United States, to report that information to CGNRC. The latter will dispatch on-scene coordinators to collect data, and will serve as a liaison for the U.S. National Response Team (NRT). However, the responsibilities and purview of CGNRC extend far beyond the functions one normally associates with the Coast Guard. Not only is CGNRC the principal point of contact regarding oil spills, the same is true with regard to chemical, radiological (having to do with nuclear radiation), biological, and etiological (involving disease) hazards as well.
Working with other departments and agencies. CGNRC assists a vast array of government departments, agencies, and administrations in myriad ways. For the Federal Emergency Management Agency, for instance, it acts as a contact point on reports of natural disasters and the evacuations associated with them. The Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) depends on its 24-hour Rail Emergency Hotline, which receives and disseminates information on hazards ranging from railroad accidents to the refusal of railroad employees to undergo drug testing. CGNRC assists the Department of Defense (DoD) by recording transportation incidents or anomalies involving DoD explosives or other sensitive materials, while the Department of the Interior relies on CGNRC to receive reports of incidents involving Trans-Alaskan Pipeline Oil.
In addition to regularly briefing the secretary of Transportation and the chiefs of modal administrations (e.g., the FRA) regarding transportation emergencies, CGNRC also conducts briefings for the White House and the Department of Homeland Security. In the aftermath of the 9–11 terrorist attacks, the federal government has urged civilians witnessing any suspicious activity around rivers and waterways to report this information to CGNRC. According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune in November 2002, "Activities that should be reported include unusual filming, hunting or fishing in unusual areas, lights flashing between boats and the shore, ship crew members recovering or tossing things into the water, and divers entering the water near docks or bridges." Numbers for contacting CGNRC are provided at its Web site, listed below.
█ FURTHER READING:
Darce, Keith. "Port Still Vulnerable, Its Chief Says." Times-Picayune. (New Orleans, LA) (November 20, 2002): 1.
Kreuzer, Heidi. "Westchester Incident Highlights Oil Spill Concerns." Pollution Engineering 33, no. 1 (January 2001): 9–10.
Coast Guard National Response Center. < http://www.nrc.uscg.mil/index.htm > (January 22, 2003).
U.S. National Response Team. < http://www.nrt.org/production/nrt/home.nsf > (January 22, 2003).