The time available to implement successful control measures against epidemics was estimated. Critical response time (CRT), defined as the time interval within which the number of epidemic cases remains stationary (so that interventions implemented within CRT may be the most effective or least costly), was assessed during the early epidemic phase, when the number of cases grows linearly over time. The CRT was calculated from data of the 2001 foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) epidemic that occurred in Uruguay. Significant regional CRT differences (ranging from 1.4 to 2.7 days) were observed. The CRT may facilitate selection of control measures. For instance, a CRT equal to 3 days would support the selection of measures, such as stamping-out, implementable within 3 days, but rule out measures, such as post-outbreak vaccination, because intervention and immunity building require more than 3 days. Its use in rapidly disseminating diseases, such as FMD, may result in regionalized decision-making.