The old adage of “safety first” is more true now than ever. The sharp increase in marine traffic has led regulatory agencies to require response drills and exercises that test the efficiency and safety of operations, as well as emergency response capabilities.
Heidi Danos of Forefront Emergency Management is an expert on these spill drills and says, “Annual drills and exercises are regulatory requirements for certain maritime and other industry sectors. If carefully planned, these exercises allow a company the ability to assess and test written emergency response procedures and Incident Management Team personnel to ensure proficiency keeping safety first.”
The U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Pipeline Hazardous Material Safety Administration, and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement all have established federal exercise requirements that must be met by vessel owners and operators. Specific requirements for spill drills vary, but typically include:
- Qualified individual responsibilities
- Emergency phase vs. planning phase operations (and when to make the transition)
- Incident Command System (ICS) as it pertains to your company’s requirements and the planning phase
- Walk throughs based on the vessel geographic operating area and type of cargo
- Deficiency and mitigation opportunities
- A documented record of the event to prove compliance
Even if spills drills weren’t mandatory, they would still be critically important and offer significant benefits to vessel owners and operators. Danos also says: “As with the sports analogy, ‘We play like we practice.’ Exercises allow practice of Incident Management Team (IMT) personnel responsibilities along with a test implementation of the emergency response playbook, which is the company’s government approved response plan. A thorough exercise will identify areas that went well along with procedural and/or personnel improvements for implementation.”
In the event of an actual incident, the lessons learned from these drills and the experience gained by practicing these exercises can minimize—or even eliminate—negative impacts and consequences.
In today’s ever-changing world of regulations, it’s important to drill and be prepared for any situation, and get to know your partners before a crisis hits. Safe Harbor has the largest spill management network in the industry, and our network of experts are constantly drilling with the local, state, and federal authorities and are ready to handle any emergency. Learn more about proactive spill prevention with Safe Harbor.