Background and Mission Statement

This page has been updated as of October 2017

Mission Statement

The California Air Resources Board has been involved in air related emergencies since 1991; however, in 2009, an official emergency response program, the Office of Emergency Response, was assembled to address the mounting concern for public health in the wake of wildfires and other air emergencies in California. Following its inception, the ARB has expanded the scope of the Office of Emergency Response to include:
  • Provide emergency air monitoring support to help protect the public from acute exposure hazards of major unplanned air contaminant releases and other emergencies with air quality impacts.
  • Maintain and improve emergency preparedness through training sessions and exercises.
  • Represent the California Air Resources Board in developing Board-mandated and interagency response plans.
  • Collaborate with other emergency response entities and local air districts for optimum technical and operational effectiveness during emergency events.

 Russ Bennett deploying an instrument to the Willard Fire     The Emergency Response Team moves their new Mobile GC/MS into their Mobile Laboratory vehicle 

 A Brief History of Emergency Response in the ARB

On July 14th, 1991, several Southern Pacific rail cars derailed on the Cantara Loop near Dunsmuir. One of the rail cars ruptured and released about 19,500 gallons of the herbicide metam sodium into the Sacramento River. Forty five miles of the river and portions of Lake Shasta were sterilized, more than 200,000 fish were killed, and surrounding communities were treated for eye, skin, and respiratory irritation. As a result, Senate Bill 48 (Thompson) was adopted into law creating the Railroad Accident Prevention and Immediate Deployment (RAPID) Force which was given the authority to organize and coordinate the state response to large-scale hazardous materials transportation incidents.

The subsequent air assessment response to the Dunsmuir spill demonstrated the inherent deficiencies in measuring, modeling, and characterizing the effects of exotic air pollutants at lower ppm levels. With the limitations of air monitoring and modeling techniques, thousands of pounds of hazardous materials had been emitted into the atmosphere. Established sampling and analytical methods were insufficient to handle an incident of that magnitude.

Experts with a vast array of emergency air monitoring expertise were brought together from various ARB programs to form the Office of Emergency Response. The specialists would be available upon request by local air districts during emergency situations to expend ARBís resources. Smaller state and local agencies do not always possess the available resources to deal with large emergency events and the Office of Emergency Response prepared to handle any air quality emergency. The Emergency Response Staff are continually searching for and training with cutting edge air monitoring equipment, conducting outreach programs to improve interoperability with local and state agencies, and proficiently responding to requests for air monitoring support.