FWS National Contingency Plan


The discovery, notification and the initial evaluation during any oil spill incident are the most important aspects for conducting a safe effort, accurately determining the potential risks, and initiating an adequate spill response. It is extremely important for Service personnel to understand and follow the guidance provided.

Although the procedures in this chapter are listed in order of general chronological occurrence, there are often circumstances in the early discovery, notification and initial evaluation that do not occur in an orderly manner. It is important to remain alert to the specific circumstances encountered to best determine the appropriate actions. If you are untrained or in doubt as to your expertise, you should evacuate the scene and make the appropriate notifications. Never respond to an incident that you perceive to be beyond your training or abilities. Safety is the primary response goal. It is important that injuries to responders, the public, and the environment do not occur as a result of response efforts.


All Service personnel may discover spills at some time in their career. It is important to recognize when there is a discharge, release or spill of oil, hazardous substance or any pollutant or contaminant that may present an imminent and substantial danger to the public health or welfare and/or the environment. Discovery of a discharge, release, or spill, from barrels, pipelines, well heads, vehicles, buildings, etc. may involve personal observation; reports from citizens, agencies, or Service personnel; or notification by response agencies. Discovery is informed observation. Often the observer that discovers a discharge, release of spill is untrained in safety and hazardous materials response procedures. It is important to follow these guidelines:

1. Keep personal safety first;

2. Remain alert and observant;

3. Do not exceed your level of response training;

4. Evacuate the area quickly,

5. Immediately report all discharges, releases, spills and any unusual sheens, substances, containers, etc.


Federal Law Requires the Reporting of All Oil and Hazardous Substances Spills to the National Response Center at (800) 424-8802 or (202) 267-2675.

There are specific Federal regulations under CERCLA, CWA, and OPA requiring notification of releases and discharges. Individual State regulations may require additional notifications. The national communications center is the National Response Center (NRC), Located at USCG Headquarters, Washington, D.C. The NRC is continuously staffed. Upon notification, the NRC immediately relays notices to the appropriate pre-designated Federal On-Scene Coordinator and National Response Team member agencies or Federal entities that have established written agreements or understandings with the NRC.

Service Spill Response Coordinators should determine if additional notification for State and local agencies is required and develop the appropriate regional protocols.

Fish & Wildlife Service Notification Protocol

The Service response protocol requires the notification of key response and resource personnel. Develop a regional notification list and ensure that all of the notifications have been made when a spill response occurs. It is important to document the notification process. A complete notification list should include the following:

National Response Center (NRC)
1-800-424-8802 or 1-202-267-2675

State Spill Reporting Center (as required; identify in Regional Contingency Plans)

DOI, Office of Environmental Policy and Compliance, Regional Environmental Officer (Appendix I and

FWS, Regional Response Coordinator or Field Response Coordinator

FWS Response Personnel

Immediate Supervisor

When notifying the Federal and State response agencies, it is important to provide specific information. The available information will differ from incident to incident. The “U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Oil and Hazardous Substance Pollution Incident Report” form (Figure 2) requires the information necessary to ensure appropriate notification. Fill this out to the extent possible prior to making the report call. Having as much of this information as possible before calling the NRC will expedite the notification process, but do not delay the reporting if desired missing information is not immediately available.


Once initial discovery and notifications have been completed, First Responders must immediately seek additional and more specific information about any material in question and follow these steps:


Resist the urge to rush in; you cannot help others until you know what you are facing.

DO NOT walk into or contact spilled material.

Approach the incident from an upwind direction, if possible.

Move and keep untrained people away from the incident scene.

Avoid inhalation of fumes, smoke and vapors, even if no hazardous materials are known to be involved.

Do not assume that gases or vapors are harmless because of a lack of odor; odorless gases or vapors may be harmful.


Placards, container labels, shipping papers and/or knowledgeable persons at the scene are valuable information sources. Evaluate them all.


Without entering the immediate hazard area, do what you can to isolate the area and assure the safety of people and the environment. The U.S. Department of Transportation, 2004 North American Emergency Response Guidebook (Appendix K) and the NIOSH Pocket Guide to Chemical Hazards (Appendix V) are included in the FWSOSCP and may provide the guidance initially needed to secure the scene. Move and keep untrained people away from the scene and the established perimeter. Allow enough room to move and to remove your own equipment.


Advise your headquarters to notify appropriate agencies and call for assistance from trained experts identified in the appropriate contingency and facility plans.

If appropriately trained, the First Responder may participate in removal/response activities. The initial direction of a response effort will be entirely dependent upon the information provided by the notification process, data available from the appropriate contingency plans, and initial on-scene investigations. The Incident Command System (ICS), outlined in Chapter 8 and Appendix C, will be used to effectively control and manage operations at an oil or chemical spill incident. Participation in the ICS will depend on the first responders’ level of training. ICS may be implemented immediately with the senior emergency response official assuming command of the response or it may be implemented upon arrival of the response agency’s On-Scene Coordinator.

Last updated: February 14, 2013