A large outpouring of citizen volunteers may converge at the scene of a highly publicized, widespread oil spill in a coastal area. A spill response manager may be reluctant to use volunteers due to liability issues, their overwhelming numbers, the short term commitment by the majority of the volunteers, and the uncertain effectiveness of their actions. Given the high motivation of citizen volunteers and the local political climate, it may be unwise or impossible to turn the volunteers away.

An international protocol for managing volunteers and ensuring their safety during an oil spill response is presented. This protocol defines the process of utilizing volunteers in a safe and orderly manner to achieve positive results in mitigating the adverse effects of an oil spill on the environment.

important aspects of the protocol are the assignment of an experienced volunteer coordinator/manager, organization, site supervision, basic training, volunteer support/logistics, and integrated safety management at all levels.

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Author notes

1 The views, opinions, and analysis in this paper are the authors' alone and do not necessarily reflect those of the Clean Caribbean & Americas or its Member companies.