National Response Center (NRC) Alerts Are Back!

This week we restored a nationwide data source to the SkyTruth Alerts system, our free email-based pollution and incident notification tool. For over a year, the public interface for the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center (NRC) has been offline, and we have not been able to send out notifications when new pollution reports are reported. The NRC receives approximately 30,000 reports a year, and about 10,000 of those are in the Gulf of Mexico. This outage substantially limited our ability to research pollution incidents and notify the public about oil and hazardous chemical releases, so we are pleased to announce that we can now provide weekly alerts from this important data source.

The Coast Guard has been posting a weekly update of all the reports they receive, in the form of an excel spreadsheet. It has taken us a while to do the necessary data wrangling and re-coding, but we have finally found a way to incorporate this unwieldy file into our Alerts system so we can resume providing you the easy-to-understand email notifications that you’ve been missing.

A couple of details and cautions about how the restored system will work as long as we receive these weekly updates from the NRC:

  • Weekly Updates: We will issue Alerts every time the file is updated at www.nrc.uscg.mil, typically on Tuesday or Wednesday for everything that has been received in the preceding week.
  • >50 Alerts: Because you will be getting a weeks worth of reports all at once, there is a good chance your weekly update from the NRC may include more than 50 incidents, so we won’t able to show everything in your daily email. There are a few simple solutions to this…
    • Break up your subscription into smaller areas. Just unsubscribe from your current subscription and re-subscribe to a several smaller areas.
    • When you get your weekly email, just click through to the Alerts map (below) to see everything that has happened in your area of interest.

    NOTE: This map is dynamically updated, but for performance reasons we can only show up to 50 incidents at a time, and we only display Alerts that have occurred in the last 30 days. Be sure to zoom in to the city or county level and pan around to make sure you are seeing everything.
    Unfortunately, this is best that we can do with the available data, and we won’t be able to restore daily Alerts from NRC data until further upgrades are made on the government’s end. In the meantime, we continue working on a general overhaul that will incorporate more data sources, new features, and improve the overall user experience. We currently have over 2,200 subscribers, which is far more than we ever imagined we would have when we built this tool for our own internal use. We hope you’ll continue to find this service helpful, and while Alerts are free, your donation will certainly help us maintain and improve this resource.

    To sign up for alerts, or to resubscribe to new areas, visit – alerts.skytruth.org/.