Frequent Questions

How did states form their SERCs?

How are States expected to form their State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) as required under Title III?

States are required to establish a State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) under Title III. The SERC may consist of existing emergency response organizations or may be an entirely new mechanism to address this requirement. A SERC is responsible for designating emergency planning districts within the State and appointing, supervising, and coordinating a local emergency planning committee for each district. Where appropriate, existing political subdivisions or multi-jurisdictional planning organizations may be designated as the districts and committees.

EPA believes it is important that these SERCs include representation from more than one State agency. Many State commissions agree and have included agencies dealing with environmental protection, emergency management, public health, occupational safety and health, labor, transportation, the attorney general's office, and commerce department, as well as other appropriate public and private sector interests. Each of these agencies have expertise to bring to an emergency response commission. In addition, EPA's regional offices are available to assist States in establishing and implementing required planning structures.

Expertise in chemicals, process safety, and the hazards posed by chemicals make State environmental protection agencies vital to the SERCs. State emergency management agencies' knowledge of emergency planning and preparedness is also needed in order to make a State commission an effective tool for emergency planning at the local level. Public health agencies can provide the knowledge of potential consequences to human health including worker safety, while the transportation agency should be involved due to the prevalence of transportation incidents involving hazardous materials. Working together, these agencies can help the State better meet its responsibilities under Title III. Of course, a governor may wish to choose one of these agencies to serve as the lead agency for the Commission. Some States have established such an organization; other States have enlisted the assistance of industry and transportation officials in such multi-agency/organization forums. The more expertise in a State commission, the better that commission will be able to meet the Title III requirements and assist communities in meeting their responsibilities to their citizens.

A December 1986 letter from the National Governor's Association to all governors summarizes the Title III requirements and requests the designation of a contact person in each governor's office to receive further information on what other States and EPA are doing to implement Title III. The letter also mentions the existence of a State Chemical Preparedness Program contact and a State representative to the Regional Response Team. The need to coordinate with these individuals in the development of the State commission was strongly emphasized.

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