The U.S. Coast Guard hosted the 2013 Spill of National Significance Executive Seminar at its headquarters Monday.
As a follow up and identified best practice to the 2012 Spill of National Significance (SONS) Executive Seminar, the Coast Guard hosted the 2013 Executive Seminar to explore national level policy issues associated with Arctic spill response and to exercise national-level coordination of Senior Officials during an Arctic SONS.
Over 75 senior government officials and advisors representing over 20 federal agencies and departments participated in this year’s SONS capstone event. Additionally, two representatives from the state of Alaska, including the Commissioner from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation, participated in the exercise.
This was the third and final event in the 2013 SONS exercise series. Coast Guard District Seventeen, in coordination with the Alaska Regional Response Team and state of Alaska, held a Regional SONS Tabletop Exercise in June 2013. In September, the Coast Guard sponsored a 1-day SONS training event in Washington.
According to Rear Admiral Tom Ostebo, Coast District 17 Commander and the Alaska SONS Federal On Scene Coordinator (FOSC), "The 2013 SONS Executive Seminar highlighted several opportunities to enhance our preparedness and response posture for an Spill of National Significance. As FOSC, this exercise was particularly useful in making sure all of us continue to look for the unexpected and remain creative in both prevention and response planning in the Arctic."
The Coast Guard’s SONS Training and Exercise Program provides senior interagency officials the opportunity to discuss complex and politically sensitive national-level response issues experienced during major oil spills. This program serves to acknowledge and address critical gaps from past exercises as well as other related incidents.
“The 2013 SONS Executive Seminar and training serves as an excellent means for building partnerships and discussing key national-level issues and lessons learned from prior incidents to ensure we are better prepared to respond as an interagency in the future, said Richard M. Chávez, Director of Operations Coordination and Planning for DHS."
Chávez also said that although considerable work and planning has been done to enhance our whole of government preparedness for a Spill of National Significance in the Arctic, there is still more work to do, especially in the area of logistics planning and continued outreach.
This Executive Seminar included a facilitated discussion of outreach activities and logistical planning and support needed during a major offshore oil spill in the Chukchi Sea (North Slope Alaska). The discussions emphasized the importance of transparency of information during a major oil spill in Alaska. In addition, participants reviewed the logistical challenges associated with conducting operations in Northern Alaska, and the need to work collaboratively at the most senior levels to ensure an effective response.