Argo Merchant Reprise Exercise Enhances Oil Spill Preparedness
JAN. 29, 2024 — The Office of Response and Restoration conducted an internal preparedness exercise on January 18th, 2024. The exercise was loosely based on the historic Argo Merchant spill that happened off the coast of Massachusetts in December of 1976. The grounding of the Argo Merchant and the response by NOAA scientists was a significant event, resulting in NOAA being identified as the lead science advisor under the revised National Contingency Plan in 1978 and, ultimately, the creation of OR&R.
During the four-hour table-top exercise, OR&R members reacted to the simulated event to solve scientific questions such as the fate and trajectory of the oil spill, threats to key natural resources such as the endangered Right Whale, and likely shoreline impact and cleanup planning. While many of the activities were simulated, real-time coordination with other NOAA offices did occur, including with NOAA partners such as the Office of Coastal Survey to address navigational survey needs as well as NOAA communications and OR&R and NOS public affairs staff to plan communications and media materials.
The virtual exercise was led by the OR&R’s Disaster Preparedness Program from the Gulf of Mexico Disaster Response Center. Exercising mission readiness is critical to truly being response ready. This intricate exercise, while limited in scope, did allow for many newer and less experienced OR&R staff to prepare for action they will lead in future events. As with any real event and exercise, areas for improvement were identified and will inform future actions. Through this exercise, OR&R is preparing to be better postured and ready for a real-life incident.