UBC Graduate Research

Community Engagement Strategies for Marine Oil Spill Planning and Response Rondolo, Ryah


With an expected increase in tanker traffic in Vancouver, Canada and associated marine oil spill risks, it is crucial that planning professionals and decision-makers take steps to prepare for a major oil spill, including enhancing community engagement efforts. Through 23 semi-structured interviews with professionals involved in oil spill planning and response in British Columbia (BC) and the United States (US), this research project investigates current community engagement practices in BC, comparing them with practices in US communities which have been impacted by past major oil spills. Overall, there were a higher percentage of US interviewees (86%) who have conducted community engagement activities compared to BC interviewees (67%). For both US and BC interviewees, outreach communication is the most common type of engagement activity, followed by consultation and workshops; the least practiced was training and exercises. Most BC interviewees stated that they generally do little to no pre-event community engagement. The main challenges and concerns highlighted by interviewees included misinformation and mistrust, low public interest, public health concerns and hazards (particularly for convergent volunteers), causing fear and panic, and having limited time and resources. Recommendations include preparing information packets prior to a major oil spill which can be immediately distributed to the public following an event, providing an official forum for citizens to share their input into marine oil spill planning (e.g., a Citizen’s Advisory Council for BC), and encouraging pre-registered and pre-trained volunteers who are ready to respond in the event of a spill. Overall, this research project recommends strategies for marine oil spill community engagement, especially in Vancouver, BC and other coastal communities which have not yet experienced a major oil spill event but are at risk of one.

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Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International