Coast Guard SONS 2010 national exercise begins in Portland

PORTLAND, Maine -The U.S. Coast Guard and 50 other federal, state and commercial organizations have gathered to begin the triennial Spill of National Significance Exercise or SONS 2010 exercise in Portland, ME.

SONS 2010 is a full-scale exercise designed to test response to a Spill of National Significance (SONS). A SONS is defined as a spill that due to its severity, size, location, complexity or impact requires extraordinary coordination of federal, state, local, and responsible party resources to contain and clean up.

This year’s exercise simulates a 69,000 barrel crude oil spill in the Gulf of Maine along with other complications designed to challenge the joint response effort. The more than 400 participants from 50 agencies will be asked to coordinate planning, communication, and resources to protect the New England coastline from the simulated oil.

Additional smaller participating sites have been established in Portsmouth, N.H., Boston, Maynard, Mass., Washington, D.C., and Portsmouth, Va. The exercise will run March 23rd-24.

“The opportunity to test our response capabilities with our federal, state and local partners, as well as with our industry partner, Shell, is a real benefit to the Coast Guard here in the Northeast,” said Capt. Jim McPherson, the Sector Northern New England commander. “The benefits will extend beyond oil spills, and make us much better prepared to jointly respond for any kind of disaster in the region.”

The SONS Exercise Program has four overarching goals: increasing the preparedness of the entire response organization from the field level up to agency leadership in Washington, D.C.; exercising the National Response System at the local, regional, and national levels using a series of large-scale, catastrophic hazardous material incidents; providing an environment for an unprecedented level of cooperation throughout all levels of government, private sector, and non-governmental organizations; and offering broad opportunities to improve plans and procedures.

SONS 2010 is the only Coast Guard-sponsored Department of Homeland Security Tier II exercise on the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program five-year calendar. The regional exercise involves more than 600 members from a variety of federal, state, local, tribal and private organizations.

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