Eight communities in the Bering Strait are now more prepared with experience and training to protect our land and waters in the event of an oil spill emergency through the Oil Spill Response Course, August 14-16 in Nome. Brevig Mission, Diomede, Golovin Nome, Shishmaref, Stebbins, Unalakleet and White Mountain were represented in the class of 18 students.

Community leaders and emergency response personnel were able to learn from local case studies on natural disasters, local emergencies, and discuss what works, what doesn’t work, and what is lacking in our communities to be better prepared for an emergency. Workshop leaders stressed the importance of local incident action plans and encouraged the group to advocate to the community for development of a plan. Regulations, environmental impacts, safety protocols and health impacts were also discussed at length to give participants a chance to consider the big picture in a response situation. Participants in the workshop got to handle and explore different emergency and oil spill response equipment first-hand in colorful connexes full of equipment owned by Chadux. ¬†Incorporated into the course was also the Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (HAZWOPER) Refresher.

With the opening of shipping lanes in the changing Arctic, it has become a priority for Kawerak to advocate for the preparedness of our communities for the new challenges and potentially life-threatening crises that can occur with these changes. Assisting with courses such as this one is one such step toward a better equipped Bering Strait.

The training was provided free to participants, and travel scholarships were awarded thanks to the generous support of Kawerak’s Environmental Program, the U.S. Environmental¬†Protection Agency (EPA), the US Coast Guard (USCG), and the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC).