Interacting with the public during emergencies

You need to prepare what you are going to say to the public and press in case someone asks. They might ask at any time, and if there is a public accident or situation (facility fire, etc.) there is more likely to be questions.

Prepare to answer:

How much medical waste do you produce every month / year?
You should be able to provide historical numbers and what you expect going forward

How much of each type of waste do you produce?

Do you have waste minimization policies?
There is no legal requirement, but it’s good community relations to say you have one, and having one will probably save you money in the long run.

Do you train your staff on waste management and risk reduction?
If you have a well thought-out and implemented plan, the answer should be "yes".

How many releases/spills/accidents have you had in the past year/5 years?
There is no obligation to release this information to the public or press. If ordered by a court, you will have to release this information. However you may wish to make this information public as a show of good faith and transparency.

Do you have radioactive waste on site?
If so, do you have containment processes? Do employees who work with radioactive materials know how to protect themselves, other employees, patients, the public, and the environment?

Do you produce mercury waste?

Do you produce RCRA hazardous waste?

Is there any chance members of the public will get sick because of this accident?
You probably don't know, so don't pretend you do know.

How long until the release is cleaned up?

Are our pets safe?

What should people who live near your facility do?

Do you have an emergency plan?

You should have an emergency plan and it should include how to deal with waste.


The Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) of 1986 is intended to help communities know what type of hazardous chemicals are nearby so they can plan for actions in case of accidental releases.

The EPA keeps a list of over 300 "Extremely Hazardous Substances" (EHS) a "List of Lists Database." If you have these on your site, you need to prepare an inventory report for regional emergency response committees and state emergency response commissions.

Do you have those chemicals on your site? Yes. If you are a hospital or research facility, you almost certainly do. The list includes such run-of-the mill substances as acetone, sodium hypochlorite, and cyclopropane. Look over the list and write down what you have in your inventory. Aside from being a requirement for the EPCRA compliance, this process will help you identify materials of concern that may require safety measures.