Exxon Valdez Oil Spill and the National Park Service: A Report on the Initial Response   [open pdf - 13MB]

"What it touches. Unlike a fire, which requires a constant combination of fuel, oxygen, and heat, spilled oil is always present and must be physically removed. This comes about either through dispersion by the forces of nature or by the intervention of humans. What follows is the story of how the National Park Service (NPS) responded, in the first several weeks after the disaster, to the largest oil spill to occur in North America. The initial response reflected the urgent nature of the threat and injuries presented to the land the Service manages for the American people. The NPS will be responding to resource damage, legal ramifications, and other consequences for what may be years to come. Some investigations were only beginning as the first phase of the incident ended. The activities described in this report represent only the first phase. One federal agency refers to this type of historic narrative as a 'Contemporary Historical Examination of Current Operations.' Although this contemporary historical examination, underway almost from the beginning of the incident until the first phase ended with the departure of the field teams in the fall, has certain limitations, it also offers particular advantages. Such histories leave records that historians can later reinterpret with the broader perspectives that come with the passage of time. They also can help an organization prepare for future challenges. The report focuses on the use of the Incident Command System, an existing mechanism for managing federal agency response to fires. The system was applied in Alaska, for the first time, to a different kind of environmental disaster."

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