Project Details

Cross Border Contingency Plans for U.S.-Mexico Sister Cities

Short Description and Goal

The concept of sister city contingency plans was established in 1983 by the Joint Response Team (JRT). Recognizing that chemical emergencies affect the local community first, JRT members agreed that subsequent planning efforts would be needed for the 28 sister cities – 14 in Mexico and the adjacent 14 in the United States – that could be affected by a major hazardous substance release. The sister city contingency plan program was created to meet that need.

Detailed Description

Today, the border region is home to more than 14 million people, with about 7.3 million living in the United States and 6.8 million in Mexico3. Some 90% of the population resides in the 15 pairs of border “sister cities”. The remaining population lives in small towns and rural communities. There are 26 U.S. federally-recognized Native American tribes in the border region, many of which share extensive cultural and familial ties with indigenous peoples in the border region of Mexico.

The 1985 Annex II of the La Paz Agreement establishes cooperative measures for preparing and responding to oil and hazardous substance incidents along the Mexico-United States (U.S.) inland border. The agreement also requires a Joint Contingency Plan (JCP) which was developed in 1988 and signed in 1999. An updated version was finalized and signed in 2008. The Mexico-U.S. JCP has provided the foundation for the 15 Sister Cities Bi-national Emergency Response Plans that have been developed over the last several years. The Emergency Preparedness and Response Policy Fora is co-chaired by U.S. EPA’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Mexico’s Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA), and Secretaria de Gobernación, Coordinación General de Protección Civil (Mexico’s Office of Civil Protection).

Under the Border 2012 Program, a 15th Sister-City Pair or Tri-National Plan was recognized: The Tohono O’Odham Nation, State of Arizona and Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico. In addition, under the Border 2012 Program, the sister cities of El Paso, Texas and Cuidad Juárez, Chihuahua also included Sunland Park, New Mexico and the Ysleta del Sur Pueblo into the sister-city plan, also becoming a Tri-National Plan.

Workgroup essentially functions as the steering committee of the Joint Response Team (JRT). The work of the JRT is supported by a notification system for the binational reporting of emergency response incidents, drills, and threats; local Emergency Response Plans developed jointly by sister cities along the border; certified training courses; and analyses of potential risks in the border region.

Both countries have increased coordination with their federal, state and local partners and thanks to this collaboration many of the millions of residents within the border region will benefit from improved training, state-of-the-art equipment, and enhanced emergency response capabilities for both countries. These actions fulfill numerous U.S. and Mexican objectives, the U.S.-Mexico Border 2012 Goal 4 to “Enhance Joint Readiness for Environmental Response.” In addition, EPA, PROFEPA and Protección Civil agreed to jointly enhance border notification and agency communication protocols to expand participation of all stakeholders in the Policy Fora and Task Forces.

With the completion of 15 sister city plans, the JRT is working to expand preparedness efforts. While some risk identification has been completed by both Mexico and the United States, such as commodity flow studies and hazard analysis, the JRT is working on a more coordinated plan of action for risk identification and reduction in order to better protect border communities from chemical accidents.

The program encourage improved training, the use of state-of-the-art equipment, and enhanced emergency response capabilities of our border partners by providing capacity building materials that will enhance response readiness, cross-border coordination, and training continuance for responders and counterparts.





Initiated by

  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Mexico’s Procuraduría Federal de Protección al Ambiente (PROFEPA)
  • Secretaria de Gobernación, Coordinación General de Protección Civil (Mexico’s Office of Civil Protection)

Initiators are

• Public institution

Funded by

• Municipality
• Federal or State Funds

Project Website(s)

Social Media Link(s)

Contact Info

Project Topics

Agriculture, Environment, Climate & Energy, Public Services & Administration, Rural Development, Sustainable development

Level / Project Complexity /


Participating Cities

  • San Diego
  • Tijuana
  • Calexico
  • Mexicali
  • Yuma
  • San Luis
  • Naco
  • Douglas
  • Agua Prieta
  • Columbus
  • Puerto Palomas
  • El Paso
  • Sunland Park
  • Ciudad Juárez
  • Ysleta del Sur Pueblo
  • Presidio
  • Ojinaga
  • Del Río
  • Ciudad Acuña
  • Eagle Pass
  • Piedras Negras
  • Laredo
  • Nuevo Laredo
  • McAllen
  • Reynosa
  • Weslaco
  • Rio Bravo
  • Brownsville
  • Matamoros

Sizes of Participating Cities

• less than 1.000
• 1.000 - 5.000
• 5.000 - 20.000
• 20.000 - 100.000

Participating Countries

  • USA
  • Mexico

Project Region(s)

• North America

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