After the Gulf of Mexico many oil industry companies are re-training their emergency response teams. The use of exercises and drills is an essential part of the team building that allows the response teams to deal with incidents. When establishing the team, table top exercises can be used to bind the group together and sort out strengths and weaknesses. Drills, where equipment and personnel are deployed are useful. Unplanned or no-notice exercises, point to areas for improvement as teams are put under more pressure. The use of external agencies, for example a national exercise, creates a more realistic scenario comparable to an actual spill, as the response teams would have to deal with a variety of stakeholders, but is this far enough?

In the United Kingdom, oil companies are legally required to test their spill Contingency Plans once a year and their full Emergency Response Team with the Secretary of State's Representative every 5 years. Since the Gulf of Mexico incident these companies have gone back to their plans and their emergency teams to re-evaluate. The focus has switched from what might happen to the very worst case scenario.

At Oil Spill Response we exercise weekly, planned table top exercises, no notice drills, sitting in response centres, full equipment deployments and site survey reports. The lessons learnt from the Gulf of Mexico have changed our own exercises and training to include more ICS, different response strategies and survey techniques.

This paper will focus on the use of best practice exercises, drills and spill management, lessons learnt from the Gulf of Mexico, and how to prepare oil spill response teams. It will attempt to prompt a more rigid structure for the training of response teams and try to ascertain the best method for each sector to create realism.

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