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Oil spill responder: 'Amazing' to see coordination

By Ed O'Keefe

Coast Guard Cmdr. Jim Elliott spoke with The Federal Eye for Tuesday's Post about his work at the unified command post in Mobile, Ala. and how this stint compares to his service after hurricanes Katrina and Rita:

Jim Elliott
(Jennifer Reynolds/the Daily News via AP)

Q: What did you do after Katrina and Rita, and how does it compare to now?

Just like in Katrina, we had numerous states impacted, so we joined in a unified command with the state agencies, local governments and multiple federal agencies to come together. . . .

Our priority is offshore, trying to get the source [of the spill] under control, fight the oil spill, recover as much oil as we can from as far away as we can. We continue to fight that fight. We're protecting the shorelines; we're putting boom around all the environmentally sensitive areas along the coast. If oil should come ashore, we're ready to respond, and we have teams with skimming equipment, and they're ready to pick it up as soon as possible. . . .

At this point, we've received no reports of oil contacting the shoreline in Mississippi, Alabama or Florida. We continue to track the trajectory. We send observers offshore every day to track the leading edge of the sheen. At this point, it's well offshore.

What are lessons learned from five years ago when Katrina and Rita hit?

I think one of the things we've learned throughout multiple disaster response operations, whether it's the World Trade Center or Hurricane Katrina, is that we must come together in unified command. It can't be one agency or entity responding. Every agency has their expertise, and we value all of those talents in a response. We have to communicate with each other and have a common language. . . .

It's amazing when you bring in all these different agencies with all this expertise from NOAA [National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration] doing the trajectory analysis of where the oil is going to go. You have U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service working on the resources at risk. We have National Park Service involved. OSHA [Occupational Safety and Health Administration], the state agencies, the local boards of health, all the way down to the community volunteers. It's a massive undertaking.

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By Ed O'Keefe  | May 4, 2010; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Agencies and Departments  
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Next: Oil spill: Two weeks in

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