Emergency response exercises are designed to evaluate the operational readiness of responders to act consistently with plans, policies, and procedures. The design and execution of an exercise includes scenario development, exercise control and simulation, documentation, critiques, and after-action reports. Representatives of government agencies and private parties participate in exercises intended to ensure the successful implementation of oil spill response plans and contingency plans.

Exercise scenarios for oil spills associated with a natural hazard highlight unique problems, because natural hazards can cause spills in a number of different ways. For example, earthquakes, landslides, lightning strikes, tornados, hurricanes and other storms can affect vessels, pipelines, drilling platforms, and storage tanks. In addition, the cause of many large spills from vessels is often reported as “grounding” or “collision,” but frequently a contributing cause of these accidents is severe weather.

This paper discusses the exercise objectives and special considerations for responding to oil spills caused by different types of natural hazards. Natural hazards present emergency planners with a variety of warning times, from little or no warning to days and weeks. Natural hazards have the potential to cause spills over a wide area, so coordination among several jurisdictions is particularly important. Some discharges may be even greater than an expected “worst case” spill, because an earthquake or flood can rupture multiple tanks and damage secondary containment structures. In addition, the conditions created by natural hazards can delay and hinder response efforts.

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