Written by Emilija Unė Sakalauskaitė, Lithuanian Red Cross
The long-awaited KOPOS oil spill exercise took place on the last days of May 2021. Due to the pandemic, the exercise was postponed from its original date in 2020 and instead it was implemented online this year. Despite the restrictions to make it a live large-scale event, the organisers from the Lithuanian Fire and Rescue Department made the exercise interactive and visual to all participants and observers.
The exercise simulated an oil spill disaster at the Lithuanian coastal line. It focused on the coordination of all actors involved in the management of such disaster. Overall, there were 17 actors participating in the exercise, representing multiple institutions, municipalities and non-governmental organisations. The main aim was to establish a shared understanding of each actor’s responsibilities and capacities to contribute to oil spill disaster management.
Lithuanian Red Cross, as an OIL SPILL Project Partner and a certainly present NGO in the area, took part as well. It was agreed that the primary role of the Lithuanian Red Cross in such disasters is to mobilise Lithuanian Red Cross volunteers to provide first aid to the individuals who, for instance, accidentally inhale oil steam during the cleaning activities and to support the management of spontaneous volunteers. This latter task includes registering volunteers upon arrival, distributing personal protective equipment, and following up with the recruitment for an extended period of time.
The primary capacity of the Lithuanian Red Cross for oil spill disaster is an extensive volunteer base in Klaipėda municipality – 100 active volunteers and 120 in reserve – and the staff in the Klaipėda department. Second, the Lithuanian Red Cross possesses a disaster preparedness programme that operates nationally, carrying disaster management plans, assuring staff surge capacities and trained volunteers for emergency situations. The trained volunteers are capable of managing the spontaneous ones, coordinating fieldwork and providing first aid, among other things. If there was an expressed need, the role of the Lithuanian Red Cross volunteers could also be extended to incorporate additional tasks such as collecting oil and cleaning birds, for instance.
Overall, KOPOS was an excellent opportunity to round up and constructively discuss action plans and possible obstacles and challenges. The 17 actors involved gathered a profound understanding of the complex nature of oil spill disasters that require the expertise, collaboration and capacities of actors from multiple disciplines and sectors. As a result of the exercise, the authorities responsible for managing oil spill disasters now know what the Lithuanian Red Cross can offer and what role it should take. The established understanding will allow a harmonised and effective action during an actual oil spill at the Lithuanian coastline.