In 1999–2000, the response operations to the exceptional Erika pollution (400 km of coastline affected, totalling 400 000 man days of work until summer 2002, 260 000 t of oily waste) highlighted the importance of a daily archiving of operations data and swift exploitation of that information. Satisfactory performance was achieved as regards the map production of overall activity and results, but no real time maps and diagrams, accurate enough to be used as decision aids, could be produced.

When the Prestige incident occurred, in 2003, Cedre proposed to the coordinating authorities in charge of coastline response in France (Civil Defence Zones) to install computerised networks in their Headquarters in order to collect and exploit data about quantity and origin of manpower involved in real time, the amount and characteristics of collected waste, the different techniques, material and products used on response sites. Thanks to this initiative, head response authorities had graphical summaries on their desks daily, synthesis maps weekly, and a complete, fully updated visual situation for each key meeting with the Central authorities, in which budgetary needs for the weeks to come were discussed.

The handling of data exploitation was managed according to the necessity of transmitting the information quickly to decision makers in a crisis context. We first had to send data in a hurry daily or weekly: they were diffused in an approximate and simplified way to enable a quick analysis of the information. Afterwards more time could be taken to complete and validate the information to allow a more detailed exploitation work. They can now be considered in retrospect.

The quick transmission, processing and communication of the information helped avoid some inappropriate responses like excessive waste collection for example (a situation which we had to face during the Erika response phase).

The Prestige experience proved once again the strength and significance of illustrations (graphics or maps) especially in an emergency situation as sensitive as this one: they carry much more power of conviction for decision makers and the public than pages of complex explanations.

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