Environmental, scientific and technical resources

Environmental, scientific and technical functions and resources in spill response.

Environment, science and technical (ES&T) functions and roles are identified in spill response management structures. Roles should be established and filled based on the functions required, the size and complexity of the response, the skill set of individuals and the jurisdictional/agency arrangements. 

Although primarily located within the Intelligence section, in the Australian Inter-service Incident Management System (AIIMS), specialist technical roles can be found across response structures, from supporting shoreline assessment and cleaning and advising waste sites in the Operations section, to supporting communications through media and community engagement.

ES&T experts may fill any of the following roles.

A jurisdiction may appoint an Environment and Science Coordinator (ESC) to identify and prepare people to fill the roles required during a response. Specialist ES&T advisor to the incident controller or incident management team to provide clear, balanced and timely advice on any or all aspects of the ES&T response functions, including:

  • spill and environmental parameters
  • values, risks and priorities for protection
  • input to response options
  • contributing input to, and interpreting output from, decision support tools such as modelling and NEBA
  • supporting community and media liaison

Specialist roles or unit coordinator roles within the intelligence functions, for example:

  • environment and science
  • technical advice (across many disciplines, including economics, marine science, coastal engineering and geomorphology, naval architecture, and wildlife veterinary)
  • situational awareness
  • mapping and spatial analysis
  • modelling, prediction and risk

Technical advisor within the planning, intelligence or operations functions, including acting as an on-site environmental advisor to minimise environmental harm from response actions.

ES&T network

ES&T requirements are highly diverse, often require a deep understanding of both the expert discipline and how it works in emergency response, and may need to be maintained throughout an extended response (often weeks to months). As no response agencies have all the required expertise, the ES&T network has been established to provide a national support group of highly skilled and professional experts able to apply their knowledge when needed. Network members come from government agencies across all jurisdictions, from the ports, maritime and petroleum sectors, from academia and research organisations, and from the education, commercial and consulting sectors.

Almost all ES&T network members are full-time experts and part-time responders. So, the National Plan provides professional development opportunities to learn about maritime spill incidents, to share skills and experiences, and to maintain and improve technical currency. The most significant of these is the annual workshop, but masterclasses and on-line seminars also add depth and variety.

If you want to join or contribute to the ES&T network contact us.

ES&T skills and resources—the life of a spill

Although every spill is different, the skills and resources required to address these tend to be reasonably consistent.

Spills and responses tend to follow a predictable path, even if the order or duration of the various phases may change based on context and circumstance. Below are the nine phases someone in an ES&T role might recognise prior to, during and after a spill incident and response:

  1. Before—preparing yourself, getting your technical grab-bag ready, developing and testing the contingency plan you will operate under.
  2. Clarifying—developing situational awareness of the incident and early response, and contributing to the early incident action plan (IAP).
  3. Getting established—understanding and working to the plans (contingency and IAP), assessing the risks, IC/IMT requirements and forward planning.
  4. Making decisions—responding to what you know, making recommendations/decisions and performing urgent tasks.
  5. Project phase—transitioning to the broader response, cleaning and waste management projects and program, contributing to the more consistent IAP, recognising that there are multiple parallel programs, timescales and outcomes.
  6. Scaling down—when to scale down or stop the response, endpoint criteria and processes.
  7. Essential paperwork—reporting, recording, archiving, claims, and sign-off.
  8. Going home—demobilisation and post-spill and response monitoring.
  9. The aftermath—post action reviews and inquiries.

For each phase, the ES&T professional will need to know:

  • key contacts
  • likely responsibilities
  • expected actions
  • resources required
  • forms, checklists and guidelines.

Planning and preparedness resources

Research and development

The National Plan continues to support research and development relevant to Australian interests. The research and development strategy is undergoing review.

Previous research has included:

Links for responders 

Last updated: 21 December 2022