“This is a drill.”
That's the phrase the Department of Ecology, U.S. Coast Guard, Navy, and EPA will be using next week as we practice responding to a catastrophic oil spill in the international waters we share with Canada.
We, along with our counterparts from British Columbia, will practice responding to a major simulated "spill" in waters west of Whidbey Island.
The National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (or NPREP, as we call it) will be an invaluable opportunity for all of us to work together toward a common goal: Respond to a major oil spill, work to clean up oil from the water, and help minimize environmental, economic, and cultural impacts.
Mounting rapid, aggressive, and well-coordinated responses requires planning, preparation, and practice.
More than 200 local, tribal, state, federal and private response personnel will staff a Command Center at Naval Air Station Whidbey Island near Oak Harbor. No oil will be spilled, but folks will see oil containment booming, oil-skimming vessels and work boats, and different types of aircraft operating in the area during the exercise.
One way you can watch us work is by visiting Ecology's website several times June 22 and 23. As part of the drill, we'll convene an inter-agency Joint Information Center designed to get accurate and timely information out to the public and media. We'll post updates and releases under "Hot Topics" in the right hand column of Ecology's Spills Program page.
Remember, this is only a drill. But we will learn invaluable lessons to continue improving our spill readiness and response capabilities so we're better prepared when the real thing happens. And it strenghtens our resolve to prevent oil spills from happening in the first place. Remember, Washington's waters are ours to protect.