The purpose of exercises are many. Response teams are provided with the opportunity to practice skills required in an emergency, work together closely and develop relationships, and make complex decisions under stressful circumstances. Plans, equipment, and systems will be tested and, with proper feedback, recommendations made for their improvement. By allowing the public, media, and key local organizations to observe and perhaps participate, government and industry can demonstrate their commitment to managing the risk of oil spills and protecting the environment.
Mavi Deniz offers discussion-based and operations-based exercises.
- Tabletop exercise
Consist of interactive discussions of a simulated scenario among members of a response team but do not involve the mobilization of personnel or equipment. They are usually conducted in a conference room or series of rooms connected by telephone lines and focus on the individuals’ roles and actions, the interactions between the various parties, and the development of information and response strategies. A simple and early form of tabletop exercise would be a response team going through the contingency plan, page by page, testing each other’s activities in response to an imaginary situation. A more complex tabletop exercise might involve several groups, including outside parties, playing their roles. A tabletop exercise might typically last two to eight hours and should be announced well ahead of time to ensure personnel availability.
- Notification exercise
Test the procedures to alert and call out the response teams and are conducted through telephone and other communication means, as stipulated in the response plan. They can be used to test communications systems, check availability of personnel, evaluate travel options and the speed at which travel arrangements can be made, and assess the ability to transmit information quickly and accurately. Such an exercise will typically last one to two hours and may be held at any time, day or night, announced or unannounced.
Seminars are generally informal orientation events, typically providing an overview of oil spill contingency plans and their related policies and procedures. There are no constraints imposed by real-time simulation of events. They can be valuable for organizations that are developing or making major changes to existing plans or procedures. Attendees have the opportunity to discuss their individual roles and responsibilities with a team; the facilitator may use simple scenarios to build understanding. The success of seminars relies on the delivery of information by a knowledgeable and experienced person.
After seminars, workshops represent the second tier of exercises in the building-block approach. They differ from seminars in two important respects: participant interaction is increased, and the focus is on achieving or building a product (such as a draft plan or policy). Workshops are often employed in conjunction with exercise development to determine objectives, develop scenarios, and define evaluation criteria.
A workshop may also be used to produce new response plans. To be effective, workshops must be highly focused on a specific issue, and the desired outcome or goal must be clearly defined.
- Full-scale exercise
Exercises are often more complex in that they simulate several different aspects of an oil spill incident and involve third parties. Such an exercise may be of limited scope, such as using own personnel to role-play the main external parties or full-scope. Outside agencies and organizations are invited to provide personnel to play their own roles within the exercise. Internal exercises are beneficial in the early stages of team development; it is only by exercising with the actual people involved in a real emergency that a response team can be properly tested and trained.
- Functional Exercise
A functional exercise is designed to validate and evaluate individual capabilities, multiple functions, activities within a function, or interdependent groups of functions. Events are projected through an exercise scenario with event updates that drive activity at the management level. A functional exercise simulates operations’ reality in a functional area by presenting complex and realistic problems that require rapid and effective responses by trained personnel in a highly stressful, time-constrained environment.
Functional exercises generally concentrate on exercising the organization’s plans, policies, procedures, and response team staff. The movement of personnel and equipment is simulated.
Equipment deployment exercises involve deploying oil spill response equipment at particular locations in response to an oil spill scenario and following strategies laid down in the plan for a particular spill scenario. These exercises test a local team’s capability to respond to a Tier 1 or 2 type spill, provide experience of local conditions and spill scenarios, and enhance individual skills and teamwork. Other parties must normally be part of such a response, such as providers of boats, barges, and trucks, be involved so that their availability and capabilities can be assessed; other organizations might also be invited to observe. Such an exercise would typically last four to eight hours and should be repeated frequently until teams are acquainted with the equipment. In some instances, an equipment deployment exercise might be run in conjunction with a tabletop exercise or incident management exercise. This can enhance the reality of the exercises but can be more complicated to oversee.