The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP)
has the responsibility of responding to emergencies involving oil
and hazardous materials, to ensure that discharges of these materials
do not threaten the health of the public and environment. In response
to this mandate, NJDEP maintains the Bureau
of Emergency Response (BER). The bureau, headquartered in Trenton,
supports two field offices strategically located for rapid response
on a 24-hour basis, 7 days a week.
At the site of an incident, the emergency responder's mission is
to assess the probable impact on public health and the environment,
and advise local officials on the appropriate course of remediation
while ensuring that DEP Technical Requirements
for Site Remediation are met. In those cases where the responsible
party is unknown, or cannot or will not assume responsibility for
the discharge, emergency responders may access the New Jersey Spill
Compensation Fund to ensure that corrective actions are not delayed.
The Bureau of Emergency Response is also responsible for acting
as the state's on scene coordinator when incidents involve multiple
jurisdictions, agencies and disciplines. Since October 14, 1986,
BER has participated in the management of many chemical disasters
such as; the Gordon Terminal Fire (Thanksgiving, 1987 pictured),
the Exxon pipeline spill (January 1989), the Edison Pipeline Explosion
(February 1994), the Lodi Chemical Explosion (April 1995) and the
Motor Tanker Anitra
Oil Spill (May-June 1996), just to name a few.
The difficult and often dangerous work performed by the emergency
responder dictates the need for exceptional individuals. BER's emergency
response specialists are highly trained and motivated, they must
have a college degree and a minimum of one year in experience responding
to hazardous materials incidents, before they can be hired. New
responders complete an extensive program of training in a variety
of disciplines before they are allowed to direct activities in the
field. Training and drilling remain an important part of the responders'
regimen throughout their careers, but these are no substitute for
New Jersey Law requires that most discharges of hazardous materials
be immediately reported to the NJDEP HOTLINE 1-877-WARNDEP / 1-877-927-6337.
Notification of an incident is then made to an emergency response
duty officer who investigates and assesses the specifics of the
incident to determine the threat potential to the health of the
public and environment. Generally, emergency responders are deployed
immediately upon a credible report of:
- A significant release, spill or discharge of a Toxic
Catastrophe Prevention Act (T.C.P.A.) extraordinary hazardous
- An incident resulting in fatalities or multiple hospitalizations
directly due to a discharge of hazardous material.
- An incident resulting in significant residential evacuation
and/or in a significant facility evacuation.
- An incident having interstate impact.
- Medium or major oil spills anywhere and minor spills in pristine
- Numbered highway closures directly due to a release, spill
or discharge of hazardous materials.
- An emergency requiring authorization for opening the New Jersey
Spill Compensation Fund.
Incidents that do not meet immediate response criteria are referred
to qualified county and local agencies for attention. Significant
incidents such as major oil spills, chemical explosions or chemical
fires with casualties or mass evacuations normally generate a joint
regional response with the NJ
State Police Office of Emergency Management. State support continues
on-site until the emergency is terminated.