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small noaa logo Home | Other Agencies | Responding to Oil Spills


During an oil or chemical spill, the On-Scene Coordinator (OSC), who directs the response, may be asked to consider using a non-conventional alternative countermeasure (a method, device, or product that hasn't typically been used for spill response). To assess whether a proposed countermeasure could be a useful response tool, it's necessary to quickly collect and evaluate the available information about it.

To aid in evaluating non-conventional alternative countermeasures in particular, the Alternative Response Tool Evaluation System (ARTES) was developed. ARTES can also be used to evaluate proposed conventional countermeasures. It is designed to evaluate potential response tools on their technical merits, rather than on economic factors. ARTES is designed to work in concert with the National Contingency Plan (NCP) Product Schedule and the Selection Guide for Oil Spill Applied Technologies (see links below).

Under ARTES, an Alternative Response Tool Team (ARTT) rapidly evaluates a proposed response tool and provides feedback to the OSC in the form of a recommendation. The OSC then can make an informed decision on the use of the proposed tool. A set of forms (links below) has been developed for use in the ARTES process.

ARTES was designed by workgroups of Regional Response Teams (RRTs) II and III. (RRTs are teams of Federal response specialists.) ARTES is now in place in RRT II (New Jersey and New York) and RRT III (Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Washington DC, Virginia, and West Virginia). (If you would like more information about the RRTs, please use the links at the end of this page.)

Flowchart of the ARTES process before and after a spill.
ARTES Flowchart: A map of the process

ARTES is designed for two uses:

  • to evaluate a product's appropriateness for use during a specific incident, under specific circumstances.
  • as a pre-evaluation to identify conditions under which favorable outcomes are anticipated when a product is used.

An advantage of ARTES is that it provides a management system for addressing the numerous proposals submitted by vendors and others during a spill. Subjecting all proposals to the same degree of evaluation also ensures that vendors are considered on a "level playing field."

ARTES can be used before an incident as well as during a response. If an OSC would like to consider an alternative response tool during pre-spill planning, he or she can use ARTES to evaluate the tool. Over time, the hope is that having a record of proposals on file will enable an OSC to address alternatives for future needs.

There are two ways that the ARTES process can be initiated, generally speaking:

  • When no spill response is in progress, a vendor can approach the OSCs (Federal or State) or Regional Response Team (RRT) members to request that a product be evaluated. It then falls on the OSC or RRT representative to determine the value of performing an ARTES evaluation on the product. In effect, the OSC and RRT representative perform first-line screening. If either the OSC or RRT representative decides that it would be appropriate for a product to be evaluated, he or she then must submit a written request for an ARTES evaluation to the Spill Response Countermeasures Workgroup chairperson at the appropriate RRT.
  • During a spill, only the OSC, the Unified Command, the Planning Section Chief, or the Operations Section Chief can initiate an evaluation. They would do so in response to an identified need.

Either before or during a spill, once a proposed response tool passes this initial screening step, it must be thoroughly evaluated. The vendor needs to provide complete and comprehensive information on the product by filling out the Proposal Worksheet (PWS). The information in the PWS is then reviewed by a Response Tool Subcommittee (during the planning phase) or by the Alternative Response Tool Team (during spill response operations). If the PWS is sufficient, the teams evaluate the data, provide recommendations (either to accept or not accept) to the RRT and OSC, and the report is then archived.

Completion of an ARTES evaluation does not mean that a product is pre-approved, recommended, licensed, certified, or authorized for use during an incident. Spill response products such as dispersants, shoreline cleaners, and biological agents must conform to Federal regulations meant to protect our water resources and ensure that products used for spill response undergo review and testing before they are approved for use. Approved products are listed on the National Contingency Plan (NCP) Product Schedule (link below).

An OSC need not wait for the ARTES recommendation when deciding whether to use a response tool. ARTES is designed to help, not hinder, the OSC.

Related Information on our Site
Elsewhere on the Web
  • RRT Home Pages Links to the 13 Regional Response Teams (RRTs). [leaves OR&R site]

  • Alternative Response Tool - Summary Evaluation Worksheet (SEW) The Summary Evaluation Worksheet (SEW) is the final sheet filled out by the review committee, sent to the vendor (submitter) and archived with the District Response Advisory Team (DRAT; U.S. Coast Guard spill responders who support the OSC).
    (Document format: PDF, size: 313.5 K)
  • Alternative Response Tool - Operational Needs Survey (ART-ONS) The Operational Needs Survey (ONS) is used only during an actual spill. It is used by the Operations or Planning Unit to identify short-term or long-term needs. That information is then used to solicit technologies to fill those needs.
    (Document format: PDF, size: 60.4 K)

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