Protecting Public Health and the Environment.

Idaho Environmental Guide for Local Governments: Emergency Response

Successful emergency response requires planning for situations that may cause immediate and serious harm to people or the environment. Potential emergency response situations could include the following:

  • waste management and remediation
  • air pollution
  • drinking water security

Waste Management and Remediation Emergencies

To report a spill or accident involving oil, gas, hazardous materials, anthrax, or explosives, contact the state Communications Center at (800) 632-8000 or (208) 846-7610. The call will activate Idaho's Emergency Response Network, which consists of state and local agencies (including designated DEQ field personnel and four regional response teams), and, if necessary, federal agencies. The network will take the following steps:

  • Coordinate state and federal emergency response, recovery, and mitigation operations during emergencies and disasters.
  • Provide technical support to local jurisdictions involved in local emergencies and disasters that do not require human and material resources from the state.
  • Ensure state and local preparedness, response, and recovery plans are consistent with the state's emergency management goals and procedures.
  • Coordinate requests from state and local governments for disaster emergency assistance.

For more information, visit DEQ's Emergency Response webpage.

Air Pollution Emergencies

Under the Air Pollution Emergency Rule (Section 550-562), DEQ is authorized to act when levels of regulated air pollutants cause or are predicted to cause a health emergency. The table below shows the four stages or levels of an emergency, with each stage addressing a progressively more serious air quality event.

Stage Title Description
1 Forecast/Caution The National Weather Service issues an Atmospheric Stagnation Advisory, or an equivalent local forecast is issued, triggering an internal watch by DEQ.
2 Alert Air quality has degraded, requiring industrial sources to begin air pollution control actions.
3 Warning Air quality has further degraded, requiring control actions to maintain or improve air quality.
4 Emergency Air quality has degraded to a level that will substantially endanger public health, requiring implementation of the most stringent control actions.

Drinking Water Security

Under the federal Public Health Security and Bioterrorism Preparedness and Response Act (known as the Bioterrorism Act), the Safe Drinking Water Act was amended to require community water systems that serve populations greater than 3,300 to implement certain security measures to help protect the supply of safe drinking water and maintain an adequate supply of water for firefighting in the event of natural disasters such as earthquakes and drought and disasters caused by humans, including vandalism and terrorist attacks.

Vulnerability Assessments

The federal Bioterrorism Act requires community water systems serving populations greater than 3,300 to conduct a vulnerability assessment (VA) to evaluate weaknesses to potential threats, identify steps to reduce the risk of serious consequences from attack or acts of vandalism, and prepare an emergency response plan incorporating the results of the VA. Although smaller systems are not required to comply, DEQ urges all water systems to prepare these security aids for their own protection. A self-assessment guide to assist all water systems in completing a VA can be found on the Association of State Drinking Water Administrator's website.

Idaho Water Area Response Network

Another resource is the Idaho Water Area Response Network (IDWARN), which all water systems may join. This network, modeled on the "utilities helping utilities" concept, is designed to provide quick and professional assistance in any situation that overwhelms the capabilities of a water or wastewater utility. No formal declaration of emergency is needed, and assistance can take the form of personnel, equipment, materials, or services. A member utility may request deployment of emergency support to restore critical operations at the affected water or wastewater utility. Water systems are encouraged to participate in this networking resource.

Private Wells

Private well owners are responsible for the safety of their water. While not a requirement, it is recommended that private drinking water wells be tested for common contaminants at least once per year. Testing for bacteria and nitrate is common; however, depending upon the area, land use activity, and well construction standards used, it may be reasonable to test for other potential contaminants. Questions regarding specifics related to private well testing should be directed to local Public Health Districts.

Staff Contacts

Technical Services Division Administrator
Mark Dietrich
DEQ State Office
Technical Services Division
1410 N. Hilton
Boise, ID 83706
(208) 373-0204

Related Pages

Emergency Response Overview

Emergency Preparedness for Public Water Systems

Air Pollution Emergencies