NOAA Participates in Caribbean Regional Response Team Meeting to Support Emergency Preparedness
FEB. 5, 2024 — On January 23-25, the Caribbean Regional Response Team (CRRT) meeting took place in Puerto Rico. The CRRT serves as the regional body for planning and preparedness activities before a response to an oil or hazardous substance incident is taken, and for coordination and advice during response actions. Participants include the Environmental Protection Agency, U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and agencies from Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, as well as other regional partners such as on-scene response organizations and wildlife rehabilitation specialists. OR&R staff presented on a variety of topics to advance emergency response actions.
In the OR&R line-up Regional Resource Coordinator Dan Hahn, from the Assessment and Restoration division, presented on emergency restoration actions taken at Mona Island, Puerto Rico, to remove the danger associated with oil and oily debris from a drug running boat that had gone aground within the critical habit of Endangered Species Act (ESA) listed sea turtles and corals. Working with co-trustees from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Puerto Rico Department of Environmental and Natural Resources, the Trustees were able to successfully remove the vessel from the shores of Mona Island thereby reducing the danger to the ESA-listed species present in the area.
OR&R’s Caribbean Regional Marine Debris Coordinator Yaritza Rivera, with NOAA's Marine Debris Program, walked the participants through NOAA’s Marine Debris Emergency Response Guides for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The presentation included a brief exercise where participants used a flowchart to evaluate the process for removal of marine debris from the coast of Puerto Rico, evaluating the type of debris and the associated authorities and funding for removing it.
Additionally, OR&R’s Spatial Data Liaison Jay Coady, from the Assessment and Restoration Division, and Scientific Support Coordinator Brad Benggio, from the Emergency Response Division, held an Information Management Workshop focusing on NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA) and NOAA’s ResponseLink platforms. Both of these platforms help NOAA manage data and information during a response to support the Coast Guard and for future use in evaluating injuries during a Natural Resource Damage Assessment.
The CRRT meeting also covered numerous other topics for coordination and planning for responses in the Caribbean. Areas of special concern, abandoned vessels, funding issues, and historic preservation were all covered by partners while ESA consultations were addressed by NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) Protected Resources Division. ESA consultation is required during a response in order to assure consideration and protection of ESA listed species during a response action and provide responders with best management practices to minimize impacts to these imperiled species. Additional OR&R and NMFS staff were also in attendance to enhance NOAA’s internal coordination among programs in the region.
The CRRT helps NOAA and partners plan and be prepared for responses to spill events and the aftermath of storms in the Caribbean. Building relationships among partners before a response is very important for supporting activities during an incident.