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Exercising the Belgian National Oiled Wildlife Response Plan

Sea Alarm has been invited to assist the Belgian authorities to set up and run an exercise to test the Belgian Oiled Bird Response Plan and in particular the role of the Wildlife Rescue Centre Ostend (WRCO). It is the second time that the plan will be tested and the second time that Sea Alarm will be involved in the design of the exercise.

The Belgian plan, conceived after the 2003 Tricolor incident, states (as any good emergency response plan should) that it should be regularly tested through exercises. These exercises should involve all organisations appointed as key coordinators in the plan’s Crisis Team, but each exercise focuses on the role and function of one particular stakeholder. The last such exercise in March 2008 (under the code name ‘Parlita’) simulated the first meeting of the pre-defined crisis team using a scenario of a tanker spill in the Southern North Sea. As part of the exercise, in which all crisis team members had to exchange information and set the objectives of the next 48 hours, the Flemish Institute of the Sea (VLIZ) was specially tested as the co-ordinator of information and public relations services during an oiled wildlife incident. They arranged for the meeting room and managed the information in order to start setting up a control centre for the response.

The second exercise is now under preparation to take place in October 2010, which will be organised by the Office of the Governor of West Flanders with the assistance of the Coastal Coordination Point and Sea Alarm.  This time the exercise will focus on the transformation of the Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre from a day to day operation into a temporary oiled wildlife hospital following an oil spill incident where large numbers of oiled birds arrive on the Belgian coast. The Centre has already developed a scenario for this transformation, which will be the subject of the test. Following the transformation of the WRCO, the members of the crisis team will come together on the second day to receive a guided tour and to discuss their own roles in relation to the operations of the WRCO.  Exercises like this provide a valuable opportunity to review, test and update oiled wildlife response plans as a collaborative process bringing together all those who have an interest.

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