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State Emergency Response Team

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The State Emergency Response Team (SERT) responds to releases of oil and hazardous materials including non-fixed facility radiological releases in the State of Delaware.

SERT consists of the Division of Waste & Hazarous Substances's Environmental Prevention & Response Section (EPRS) and DNREC's Office of Community Services' Environmental Crimes Unit (ECU), the Delaware Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), the Delaware State Fire SchoolDelaware State Police, Delaware Department of Transportation (DelDOT), Department of Health & Social Services Division of Public Health, and local fire companies.

An incident command system is the organizational structure used for coordination and control of state activities whenever there is an oil or hazardous material incident. For a major incident, the State provides a multi-agency response; while for a minor incident, the State could respond with one or two agencies.

SERT responses are conducted according to the Oil and Hazardous Substance Incident Contingency Plan. Depending on the complexity of the incident, there are three levels of SERT responses involving oil or hazardous material:

Level I: Consists of the local fire department, DNREC, and the Delaware State Fire School. DNREC is the Hazardous Materials Operations Branch Manager for the Fire Officer in Charge (FOIC). The FOIC is the fire chief, any other elected or appointed fire line officer, or any member serving in the capacity of FOIC, and is the incident commander and in charge of the scene.

Level II: Response for oil and hazardous materials. Consists of the local fire department, DNREC, and the Delaware State Fire School, plus selected resources as determined by the FOIC. DNREC is Site Manager for the FOIC. The FOIC is in charge of the incident.

Level III: Response for oil and hazardous materials. This is a full SERT incident. The DEMA assumes the role of Incident Commander (IC) in accordance with the provisions of the Oil and Hazardous Substance Incident Contingency Plan. The IC is the person responsible for insuring implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS) to plan and coordinate scene operations of all state/county agencies engaged in response. DNREC acts as Hazardous Materials (HazMat) Branch Manager and is responsible for managing the hazard assessment, containment, control, stabilization, and remediation activities; assuring site safety; and coordination with industry, state, and federal counterparts.

A State response is put into effect by the SERT through the ICS under the State IC or FOIC. Coordination with the federal government is on a case-by-case basis between the State IC  and the federal on-scene coordinator.

The Incident Command is made up of the following people:

  • A designee from DEMA acts as State OSC, coordinating the actions of all State agencies during a Level III incident. The designee has the authority to call on any agency or resource within the State and/or federal assistance.
  • A designee from DNREC acts as HazMat Branch Manager to direct and coordinate onsite operations and the handling and removal of hazardous substances. The HazMat Branch Manager operates from the incident site; coordinates with the FOIC (Level I – II) or the State OSC (Level III); and may coordinate with Federal OSC or their representatives, responders from neighboring states, and industrial response team.
  • A designee from the Division of Public Health provides technical expertise in the protection of human health.
  • A designee from the Delaware State Police protects life and property.
  • A designee from the Delaware State Fire School mitigates the danger of fire and explosion.
  • A designee from the county and/or local municipality assists with the local emergency response infrastructure.  

In addition to its responsibilities to the State Emergency Response Team, DNREC is responsible for maintaining a 24-hour rapid, comprehensive emergency response team to respond to emergency and non-emergency statewide oil and hazardous substance incidents for the protection of human health, safety, and the environment. The DNREC Emergency Response Team (ERT) members are made up of EPRS environmental scientists and  ECU enforcement officers trained as Hazardous Materials technicians.

DNREC's ERT has the responsibility for managing an incident site including the establishment and direction of technical matters such as site health and safety issues, the need for additional resources, the accumulation and evaluation of information, and interaction with support agencies. It is also responsible for directing and coordinating activities related to scientific evaluation including interpretation of monitoring results, planning control, and remedial actions, as well as developing sampling plans. DNREC's ERT will take over an incident if the party responsible for the incident is unknown or is unable or refuses to take appropriate actions. In addition, the ERT may respond to another state when an incident originating in Delaware impacts a neighboring state or vice versa.

DNREC responds to an average of 300 incidents per year with 1 per cent or less being SERT responses.

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