NOAA's Office of Response and Restoration (OR&R) provides scientific expertise to support incident response and initiates natural resource damage assessment both in the U.S. and internationally. Although OR&R has responded to every major spill in the U.S. over the past 35 years, OR&R continues to face challenges in communicating realistic expectations of response outcomes, in having technical products interpreted correctly by the public, and communicating the degree of uncertainty surrounding such events. Unlike hurricanes, and because large spills are rare and generally man-made, the public expects rapid, complete, and accurate information on the fate and effects, even as the spill event is still unfolding and the response is on-going. An example of a product that is frequently confusing to the public is the OR&R trajectory map, the modeling tool used to predict the possible route of an oil spill. These maps are frequently misinterpreted as the footprint of the spill as opposed to where the oil might go. Another common misconception concerns how much oil can be recovered following a spill. Given the limitations of mechanical recovery, and the rapidity with which oil spreads, evaporates, and disperses at sea, it is impossible to recover all of the spilled oil. Furthermore, oil may be left in environmentally sensitive areas because the attempt to recover the oil could cause irreparable damage. As a result, mechanical recovery generally accounts for less than 5-20% of the overall oil budget, yet the public has an expectation that the goal of a response is to remove all of the oil from the environment. Public pressure, based on these expectations, may result is response decisions that cause more harm than good. This poster will detail a project that will give recommendations on how to manage public expectations on spill response and communicate technical information through the media and elsewhere. The goal of this project, which will be detailed on our poster, is to make OR&R a reliable and comprehensive source of information on ongoing or past spill events and close the disconnect caused by differing expectations.

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