Coast Guard concludes oil spill PREP Exercise in St. Croix

Coast Guard District 7 NewsST. CROIX, U.S. Virgin Islands – Coast Guard, federal and state emergency responders, in cooperation with the U.S. Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority (WAPA) concluded a table top oil pollution response exercise Friday in St. Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands.

The industry-led exercise is a part of the National Preparedness for Response Exercise Program (PREP) required under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990.

Emergency responders established a Unified Command at the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency Emergency Operations Center, where interagency decision makers, operators and planners came together to coordinate response actions to a complex pollution response scenario at the WAPA maritime facility in St. Croix.

The goal of the exercise was to evaluate the ability of the response organization in utilizing the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Incident Command System (ICS) as a response management system to form a Unified Command (UC) and provide a competent response and initial assessment of the potential impacts of an oil spill in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Hugo V. Hodge, Jr., Executive Director of the Virgin Islands Water and Power Authority, confirmed that the utility fully supports this PREP exercise in cooperation with local and federal emergency responders. “It is important that we protect our waterways from oil spills, however, in the event that a natural disaster or other environmental event occurs, we want to be immediately responsive with a plan that is executed by skilled personnel. As first responders, we are committed to safeguard the public and the environment,” Hodge said.

“As a response community, it is our duty to exercise our joint capabilities to maintain proficiency and improve our interagency coordination to major oil spills and natural disasters,” said Capt. Drew W. Pearson, U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan Commander. “This exercise will allow us to measure our collective response capabilities and address any areas that need improvement in order to provide the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands the best possible emergency response.”

The U.S. Coast Guard alongside federal, state, and industry partners conduct emergency preparedness and pollution response exercises every year as part of an established multi-year strategy to build capabilities and improve readiness levels. Planning, training and exercising are important components of the nation’s homeland security strategy and response capabilities.

The PREP table top exercise involves approximately 11 federal and state agencies, industry partners and non-government organizations in the area including U.S. Coast Guard Sector San Juan, Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Virgin Islands Department of Natural Resources, Virgin Islands Emergency Management Agency, Nature Conservancy, WAPA, FR Consulting and Hovensa LLC representatives among others. Ecoelectrica Liquefied Natural Gas company representatives from Puerto Rico will also participate in the exercise.

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