Dare County Emergency Management hosted a regional oil spill preparedness and response training exercise at the Dare County Emergency Operations Center in Manteo from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Wednesday, February 2, 2022.
Facilitated by Crisis Tec, a private contractor that provides crisis training and consulting services, the “Outer Banks Regional Oil Spill Tabletop Exercise” was designed to engage representatives from numerous federal agencies , state and local in group discussions about their plans and procedures for providing a multi-jurisdictional response to an oil spill that could affect the coastal environment of Dare, Hyde and Currituck counties.
To animate the discussion, the facilitators used a three-phase hypothetical scenario that involved a large oil tanker crossing the coast of North Carolina during a developing tropical weather event. The first phase began when the tanker suffered an engine room fire that forced the crew to abandon ship about 58 miles off the coast of the northern Outer Banks.
During the second phase, the fire had significantly damaged the ship’s structure, causing 5,000 gallons of petroleum products to be released into the Atlantic Ocean every hour as the ship drifted ashore. During the third phase, the vessel ran aground in the surf zone, causing additional damage that increased the discharge rate to 200,000 gallons of petroleum products per hour.
To flesh out the discussion, participants were able to review oil spill trajectory projections that would be used in an actual spill. The modeling, which was developed using the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Oil Spill Trajectory Model, uses wind and current information – as well as information on the type of product spilled and the strength of turbulence expected in the water – to predict the trajectory of spilled oil.
Using trajectory maps for each phase of the scenario, participants worked in small groups to discuss how existing plans would be used to mobilize a multi-agency response to a major oil spill, as well as ways to to mitigate and recover from its potentially devastating effects. . Although the discussion after each phase had varying results, all identified the need to take aggressive action to ensure public health and safety and to minimize environmental impacts while continuing to keep the community fully informed of the various measures that should be taken. taken to protect public health and safety.
In addition to discussing how existing plans would be used to overcome the physical impacts of the spill, participants also discussed the potential long-term impacts that could result, including ecological damage, impacts on tourism and the environment. local economy, as well as financial liabilities and insurance claims.
More than 40 participants attended the tabletop exercise in person or virtually, representing a wide range of agencies, including the United States Coast Guard, National Park Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, North Carolina Emergency Management, Dare County and its six incorporated municipalities, Currituck County and Hyde County, and several other representatives from regional non-profit organizations and academic institutions.
In addition to encouraging participants to update agency plans based on discussions that took place during the exercise, Dare County Emergency Management also encouraged participants to join the effort. underway to improve the North Carolina Coastal Zone Contingency Plan operated by the North Carolina Coast Guard Sector.
“With countless large vessels transiting our shores and many smaller ones recently landing, the exercise was a great opportunity to renew our partnerships and understand how oil spill response plans and actions are integrated with all levels of government,” said Dare County Emergency Management. Director Drew Pearson. “Applying lessons learned during the training exercise will help improve response and mitigation efforts as participants update their plans and continue to work to improve regional planning and response efforts necessary to overcome a major oil spill.”
Dare County Emergency Management, which operates out of the Emergency Operations Center at 370 Airport Road in Manteo, is responsible for playing a lead role in preparing for and coordinating the response to emergencies – natural and of human origin – in Dare County. For more information or to contact Dare County Emergency Management, click the button below.