AQMD's Emergency Response Policy

What kind of emergencies does AQMD respond to?

At the request of local police, fire and health departments, AQMD responds to emergencies such as fires, explosions, toxic spills and toxic gas releases at industrial and commercial facilities and other sources. AQMD also dispatches its Emergency Response Team to events with significant public air quality impacts.

What is AQMD's role?

AQMD supports the public safety agencies such as fire and police that are responsible for primary incident command. AQMD does not assume primary incident command during emergencies.

What does AQMD do in the event of such emergencies?

AQMD can monitor wind speed and direction and provide meteorologists for consultation. The agency has computer modeling capabilities to predict how pollutants will disperse in a community. In addition, AQMD's Emergency Response Team members can collect ambient air samples near emergency sites and return them to the agency's laboratory in Diamond Bar for analysis. AQMD staff are not equipped to be present in the immediate proximity of a fire or toxic spill and therefore do not enter the so-called "hot zone." However, AQMD is prepared to supply fire departments with equipment for sampling in close proximity to emergency incidents.

What can AQMD test for?

AQMD's laboratory can test for a wide range of constituents such as hydrocarbons, particulates, asbestos, metals and specific carcinogens such as benzene. Lab analysis typically takes a few hours to complete.

What kind of emergencies does the agency not respond to?

AQMD is not equipped to monitor, test or respond to any emergencies involving biological or radioactive agents. However, in the event of a bioterrorism attack or similar incident, AQMD would do everything within its capabilities to support lead agencies.

What does AQMD advise residents to do during emergencies?

Local fire departments are responsible for determining if and when nearby residents are evacuated following a major fire or industrial explosion. Since local fire departments have expertise in such decisions, AQMD urges residents to promptly follow fire departments' emergency directions. In areas on the periphery of an incident, when thick, visible smoke or heavy odors are present, AQMD recommends common sense measures such as staying indoors and closing windows to avoid breathing smoke and fumes. Similarly, motorists should close windows and vents when driving through areas where smoke or strong odors are present.