How does the RSC work?

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This section provides guidance for Regional Stakeholders Committee (RSC) operations based on the Prince William Sound Area Contingency Plan and lessons learned from past oil spill exercises that have included an RSC.

Getting Started

Once an RSC has been convened, the immediate tasks will be to elect a Chair, establish basic procedures, and become familiar with the response situation. Here are some important steps to remember:

Diagram shows the planning cycle in a spill response.
What is a “Planning P”? This refers to a flow chart often used to visualize the schedule of work and planning that occur during one operational period of an incident response. After the initial steps that occur at the beginning of the response, the schedule enters a “loop” that repeats until the response has concluded. More details.
  1. Elect a Chair. As described in the Prince William Sound Area Contingency Plan, the Liaison Officer from the response organization will chair the group until members elect someone. An ideal Chair will be familiar with oil spill response, but being a good listener, consensus-builder, and spokesperson are just as important.
  2. Agree on rules of procedure.Even if very simple, some basic ground rules can ensure all voices are heard and everyone understands how decisions will be made.
  3. Determine how notes will be captured and reviewed. Options include designating a note-taker, distributing or reading back notes periodically to check consensus, or capturing notes collaboratively on a cloud-based platform.
  4. Brief all RSC members on the response situation. Ensure everyone has an opportunity to ask questions and receives all the necessary information even if they arrive at different times.
  5. Identify where the response is in the “Planning P” process. Planning is done in a set cycle during a spill response, often referred to as the Planning P, based around operational periods that culminate in the completion of the Incident Action Plan (IAP). This is a key source of information about the response. The RSC’s priority will be to understand the current plan and identify priority inputs to deliver to the Unified Command to inform the next Incident Action Plan. 
    Helpful tool: Organization of an Oil Spill Response, page 6 describes the “Planning P” in more detail (PDF)
  6. Determine when the RSC’s meeting(s) with Unified Command will take place. These are important opportunities for the RSC to gain information, discuss, and to deliver a message to response decision-makers. These meetings will be a key driver that shapes the RSC’s own schedule.
    Helpful tool:  Potential Community Concerns For RSC Members To Consider (PDF)

Meetings with Unified Command

Meetings with the Unified Command – the response decision-makers – provide a valuable opportunity for the RSC to discuss concerns or suggestions directly with those decision-makers.

Because there are many competing demands on the Unified Command’s time, these meetings are likely to be short (less than 1 hour) and it is important to be prepared. Here are a few suggestions based on past exercises:

  1. The Liaison Officer working with the RSC should be sure everyone knows where and when the meeting will be. The Liaison Officer should also establish with RSC members how schedule changes will be communicated if needed due to the dynamic situation. (If any RSC members are remote, they should have access to all meetings, including with the Unified Command.)
  2. The RSC should select a primary spokesperson. This could be the elected RSC Chair.
  3. Identify and communicate areas of consensus within the RSC. This can help to provide clear information to the Unified Command, even if there is not consensus on all issues within the RSC.
  4. Follow the Prince William Sound Area Contingency Plan’s description of the types of information requested from the RSC. These are: issues of immediate concern, resources (offers/requests), and response assistance (offers/requests).
    Helpful tool:  Potential Community Concerns For RSC Members To Consider (PDF)
  5. As much as possible, review all information provided by the Liaison Officer before the meeting and ask questions. Hopefully, the Liaison Officer can help answer most questions, narrowing the list of items that need to be covered in the meeting with Unified Command. This could include explaining technical language and the many acronyms that are used during a response.
    Helpful tools: 
    A list of acronyms commonly used during spill response (PDF)
    Glossary of oil spill related terminology 
  6. Make sure notes are taken and any unanswered questions or loose ends are captured so that they can be revisited later. There might also be actions or commitments to document, such as requesting RSC input prior to identifying sensitive areas for future shoreline protection deployments, staging areas, or other activities in or around RSC communities or lands.
    These notes can help when relaying information back to respective entities or for simple reference as time passes. In past RSC exercises, having a dedicated note-taker has worked well, but each group should decide what works best for them.
    Helpful tools:
    Note-taking template with important details to listen for during briefings(PDF)
    Maps for note-taking (PDF)

Planning for an RSC role

Communities may plan in advance who would represent them on the RSC and other actions they may take during a response. Some possible considerations based on past RSC exercises are listed below.

Depending on the nature of the response, an RSC member may spend more or less time actually communicating back to their community regarding the response. There may also be a Liaison Officer assigned from the response that will be doing this, and the community will also get information from the Public Information Office within Unified Command. RSC members are also likely to be very busy during a response, so will have to balance many competing demands on their time.

Questions to consider:

Who would serve on the RSC?

  • What position within your organization/group, or which individual?
  • How might an RSC member’s normal job duties be covered while they participate on the RSC?
  • Who will serve as an alternate if the primary RSC member is unavailable or requires a break during a long response? How will these two people coordinate?

How will the RSC member communicate back to the community?

  • Who will be a point person in the community to coordinate with the RSC member?
  • How will information be collected from community members, and relayed to the RSC member?
  • How will the RSC member provide information back to the community?

What plans does my community have in place related to oil spills?

  • Does your organization have an emergency plan already in place?
  • If so, who is responsible and does this indicate anything about who should be on the RSC? Or, does it indicate who may be so busy with responsibilities that they would not have time?
  • What else do these plans consider that should be brought to the attention of the Unified Command (e.g., waste management, housing, water/food supplies, etc.)?

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