IPIECA report series: guide to oil spill exercise planning



IPIECA, London, UK


This report is designed to guide those who are responsible for developing and managing oil spill response exercises. It is illustrated with eight case histories of exercises that have been held by industries in different parts of the world. The Guide describes four categories of exercise and establishes an exercise planning process that involves four steps – designing, developing, conducting and reviewing.

Exercises provide many advantages. Response teams can practise their skills, work together closely and make complex decisions under stressful circumstances. Plans, equipment and systems can be tested and improved. And government and industry can demonstrate their commitment to managing the risk of oil spills. It is essential that the roles of the different parties involved are properly reflected in exercises.

Government representatives should be involved in industry-led exercises and industry representatives in government-led exercises. This enables all parties to explore and understand their separate roles and responsibilities. The final authority, however, almost always lies with government.

Exercise categories

A well-coordinated programme of oil spill exercises includes activities of varying degrees of interaction and complexity. Four exercise categories are identified, lasting from about one hour up to about 14 hours:

• Notification exercises

• Tabletop exercises

• Equipment deployment exercises

• Incident management exercises

Planning process

Exercise planning consists of four separate activities – design, develop, conduct and review – that collectively describe the process for creating and running realistic and successful exercises. The process cycle is illustrated in the Figure 1.

Design phase

The design phase is described in six activities:

• Appoint Exercise Coordinator

• Set objectives

• Determine exercise scope

• Establish exercise plan

• Set the date

• Obtain management approval

Development phase

The development steps covered here are common and may be applied to exercises of different categories, scope and objectives:

• Establish coordination/initiate Steering Group

• Develop scenario

• Finalise plans

• Select public affairs objectives

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