INTERFACING WITH LOCAL GOVERNMENTS
The NSB is the nation’s largest municipality in terms of land area. It is a relatively strong home-rule government with a significant physical presence in each of its eight remote communities. In the smaller communities especially, the NSB performs nearly all of the physical infrastructure support, from road and runway maintenance to power plant and water/sewer operations. During storms, floods, or other natural emergencies in or near one of its villages, the NSB has used its heavy equipment fleet to respond. A fleet is kept in operational condition in each of the villages. When compared to the NSB, the NWAB has less of a dominant presence in each of its respective communities. In NWAB villages, physical assets such as heavy equipment, bulk fuel tank farms, and power plants are more likely to be owned and operated by organizations such as the local tribes, school district, or private enterprise. The Alaska Native Corporations also have varying amounts of physical assets that could be of use during an oil spill response. In addition, some of the Alaska Native Corporations are employed by the oil and gas industry for science and data gathering, logistical support, oil spill response, and other support services.
The NSB has a relatively well-developed and staffed Local Emergency Response Planning and Coordination (LERPC) team. Because of its lack of a large operational base, the NWAB does not have as strong a presence in disaster response scenarios, but they are interested in strengthening this capability. The NSB LERPC team has developed a set of scenarios (e.g., catastrophic tank farm failure, aircraft crash, and storm and flood events) that are outlined, updated, and practiced in some form using the ICS structure. For recent emergencies, the NSB, following its LERPC plan, has fielded ICS teams to the nearest affected village. The team typically consists of high-level staff from the NSB Mayor’s Office, Planning Department, Public Safety, Fire, Search and Rescue, and Municipal Services, with public information officers and others taking part. In the 2012 gas blowout of an onshore exploration well near Nuiqsut, the NSB dispatched its team, which was incorporated into state and industry ICS teams to form an integrated multiagency response and command structure. However, there is little connection between the NSB ICS team and industry-supported drills and exercises, which tend to be self-contained. The LERPC team operates more or less independently of the Unified Command structure. Some of this may be attributed to the physical distance between Incident Command Posts and the community-based capabilities. There may also be a technological bias, which places greater emphasis on such tools as computer models and aerial imagery than on subjective experiential information.
In all Alaskan native regions, individual communities look toward elders and other community members with the most relevant experience and environmental and/or traditional knowledge. While they may have no formal role, elders and other experts often direct or assist in efforts at the highest local level. Each Arctic community also has a strong network of volunteers that are typically active in emergency response, search and rescue, and related efforts. Volunteer teams in the North Slope are coordinated with the NSB-supported Emergency Response Planning and Coordination teams.
A regional citizens advisory council, similar to those established in Prince William Sound and Cook Inlet, Alaska (CIRCAC, 2012; Prince William Sound Regional Citizens Advisory Council, 2013), has been proposed by several organizations (National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling, 2011). This entity could engage in the planning process