Rapid Assessment Program
In January 1992, DARRP created the Rapid Assessment Program, comprising an on-call team of NOAA scientists and
contractors. These experts evaluate oil and hazardous substance releases
immediately following an incident. The goal of RAP is to collect perishable
data and information, photographs, and videotape in a timely manner to
determine the need for a natural resource damage assessment. The emergency
nature of spills requires that this type of information be collected within
hours after the release. Time-sensitive data, photographs, and videotape are
often critical when designing future assessment studies and initiating
restoration planning—and are also used later as evident in support of NRDA
Why was RAP created?
In the past, the first efforts following a spill focused on cleanup. Responders are often focused solely on
collecting information and samples for use in cleanup efforts and NRDA was a
secondary concern. The RAP team was established to provide a quick response
capability exclusively for damage assessment.
How does RAP work?
RAP has established emergency notification procedures with the U.S. Coast Guard
and within NOAA to ensure prompt response to significant spills. Once alerted
to a spill, RAP staff consult with co-trustees at the state and federal levels
and evaluate the potential for injury to NOAA trust resources. If the spill is
expected to have significant effects, NOAA staff determine whether to initiate
natural resource damage assessment and restoration activities based on the
scientific, economic and legal merits of the case, as well as the potential for
the successful restoration of injured resources. In many cases, the spiller of
the oil works cooperatively with NOAA to develop restoration-based settlements.
To support RAP, NOAA has developed an emergency procedures manual and a comprehensive training program that provide
guidance for the collection of environmental and economic data as well as
internal consistency among NOAA staff and regional contractors. Natural
resource economists may go to the spill site to evaluate the potential for
recreational and other human-use losses. Typical tasks conducted on-site by
resource economists include collecting data on recreational and commercial uses
affected by the spill, and documenting beach, fishing and waterway closures.
RAP is coordinated from Seattle, Washington and regional responders are located in Anchorage, AK; Sandy Hook,
NJ; St. Petersburg, FL; Seattle, WA; Long Beach, CA; and Silver Spring, MD.
These NOAA regional scientists work full-time on damage assessment cases and
are also the primary damage assessment responders for spills in their area.
Additionally, NOAA has four rapid assessment contractors located in Seattle,
WA, Boston, MA, Narragansett, RI, and Columbia, SC. NOAA's quick response
mechanism allows the mobilization of contractor personnel or other specialized
support to the site of an incident within six hours of notification.
NOAA staff have started regional pre-spill planning with Federal,
state and tribal co-trustees. Measuring the effects of oil spills
is difficult and complex. Increased emphasis on pre-spill planning
will expedite assessment and permit cases to move more rapidly
For more information about RAP, contact firstname.lastname@example.org