The National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program has been in effect for over a decade. There is no doubt that it has been a principal factor in moving the response community from the concept of developing incident management from scratch, to unified performance through organized teams. However, in the past couple of years the PREP approach has reached a certain level and stalled. When one goes to exercise design meetings throughout the country and commonly hear, “we are not ready to deal with this issue,” one must wonder why plans cannot or will not be fully tested after a decade of experience. Is the program working to the degree that is necessary and achievable?

For continuous growth of the response community's level of competency in the Incident Command System and oil/hazardous substance response operations, a dynamic exercise program must exist. It is pertinent to ask?

  • Has the National PREP Program reached status quo, and if so are we willing to change in order to improve?

  • What is gained by testing the initial 24-hour period of the response over and over?

  • Do core components of a plan tested during smaller exercises satisfy the effort that would be required for the Worst Case Discharge event?

  • What works best, self-evaluation or independent evaluation?

  • Is agency verification of exercises being done?

  • Are unresolved issues and lessons learned documented, studied, and resolved before the next training or spill?

  • Are lessons learned shared between companies for incorporation into plans?

  • Do either the national or state modified PREP programs promote increased capability of oil spill removal organizations and spill management teams at local, regional, and national levels?

  • Is the true availability of response resources tested through PREP?

This paper will compare and contrast the National PREP program conducted by Federal Agencies, to the State of Washington's modified PREP program. The authors will answer these questions and provide recommendations for changes to PREP that will create a more dynamic and meaningful training program.

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