SONS: Spill of National Significance Exercise 2007

This week, an exercise mimicking a major oil spill has responders from 11 states participating in a full-scale exercise to test the National Response System.

SONS – Spill of National Significance Exercise 2007 – is sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG). The exercise duplicates – in practice – the response of federal, state and local agencies to major oil and hazardous substance releases in the New Madrid Seismic Zone, as well as separate oil and hazardous substance releases in the Great Lakes as a result of a tornado.

“Timely, effective response to emergencies requires constant practice and preparation. The SONS exercise provides us with an excellent opportunity to test our capabilities and those of other responders before a real disaster occurs,” said Mary Gade, regional administrator for EPA Region 5.

The Spill of National Significance (SONS) oil spill response exercise lasted 3 days, spanned 11 states and included the participation of USCG, EPA, national response team/regional response teams (NRTs/RRTs) as well as state agencies, local agencies and private industry.
The exercise involves the mobilization and deployment of response personnel and equipment, and the establishment of incident command organizations in response to numerous simulated spills of gasoline, oil, diesel and other hazardous materials.

“Hurricane Katrina demonstrated that any major disaster calls for effective, coordinated responses across many agencies and their plans. The lessons we learn during SONS will be incorporated into the plans and systems that work in concert to allow the most effective response possible to a complex real-world disaster,” said Rear Adm. Wayne Justice, the Coast Guard's director of Enforcement and Incident Management, who will be role-playing as the commandant during the exercise.

The SONS exercises, mandated by the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, have established common goals and improved the oil spill preparedness and response capabilities of the government and petroleum industry.

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