40 CFR 300.317 - National response priorities.
(a) Safety of human life must be given the top priority during every response action. This includes any search and rescue efforts in the general proximity of the discharge and the insurance of safety of response personnel.
(b) Stabilizing the situation to preclude the event from worsening is the next priority. All efforts must be focused on saving a vessel that has been involved in a grounding, collision, fire, or explosion, so that it does not compound the problem. Comparable measures should be taken to stabilize a situation involving a facility, pipeline, or other source of pollution. Stabilizing the situation includes securing the source of the spill and/or removing the remaining oil from the container (vessel, tank, or pipeline) to prevent additional oil spillage, to reduce the need for follow-up response action, and to minimize adverse impact to the environment.
(c) The response must use all necessary containment and removal tactics in a coordinated manner to ensure a timely, effective response that minimizes adverse impact to the environment.
(d) All parts of this national response strategy should be addressed concurrently, but safety and stabilization are the highest priorities. The OSC should not delay containment and removal decisions unnecessarily and should take actions to minimize adverse impact to the environment that begins as soon as a discharge occurs, as well as actions to minimize further adverse environmental impact from additional discharges.
(e) The priorities set forth in this section are broad in nature, and should not be interpreted to preclude the consideration of other priorities that may arise on a site-specific basis.