Section 2: Emergency Preparedness

While prevention is key to keeping your marina and the surrounding environment safe, knowing how to respond in the event of an emergency is just as important. This Section provides information on how you should be prepared and what you can do to maximize readiness and minimize risk.

Learning Objectives

By the end of this section, you should be able to:

  • Anticipate and assess potential hazards at your marina.
  • Develop or update your emergency response plans for marina hazards such as oil spills and fires.
  • Explain the potential hazards, emergency response plans and procedures, and where to find spill kits to your employees.
  • Analyze your oil spill response equipment, including how to maintain and store it wisely.
  • Stay up-to-date on forms like the Tier II forms and Material Safety Data Sheets, and know where to get more information on requirements.

Best Management Practices

Assess Hazards

  • Consider and plan for likely threats including:
    • Fuel spills
    • Holding or water tanks filled with gas
    • Spills at the storage area, such as used oil, antifreeze or solvents
    • Fires
    • Health emergencies
    • High winds or tornadoes
    • Floods
    • Vehicular collisions

Prepare a Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) Plan

  • The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Oil Pollution Prevention Regulation requires that marinas prepare and implement a plan to prevent any discharge of oil into navigable waters or adjoining shorelines if the facility has an aggregate aboveground oil storage capacity greater than 1,320 gallons or an underground storage capacity greater than 42,000 gallons. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Even if you are not legally required to have an SPCC plan under these guidelines, you should still develop an SPPC plan or other similar plan in place. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

This written Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure (SPCC) plan describes all measures taken at your facility to prevent and control a release of oil or petroleum products in the event that your secondary containment fails. To help determine whether you are required to develop an SPCC Plan, see the SPCC Plan Guide for Marinas and Boat Owners (EPA). Even if an SPCC plan is not legally required, it is beneficial to have a similar plan in place.

Oil is defined in the SPCC regulations (40 CFR 112) as “oil of any kind or in any form, including but not limited to petroleum, fuel oil, sludge, oil refuse, and oil mixed with wastes other than dredged spoil and oily mixtures.” This also includes non-petroleum oils, synthetic oils, animal fats, oils and greases, and vegetable oils.

  • The SPCC Plan must address:
    • Operating procedures implemented by the facility to prevent oil spills;
    • Control measures to prevent a spill from entering navigable waters or adjoining shorelines; and
    • Countermeasures to contain, clean up, and mitigate the effects of oil spills that impact navigable waters or adjoining shorelines.
    • In some cases, the SPCC plan must be certified by a professional engineer, and in other cases facility managers can self-certify their plan. Because the SPCC rule is subject to change, marina operators should check for up-to-date rules and criteria; see: Spill Prevention, Control, and Countermeasure (SPCC) Rule (EPA).
    • Also, you must train employees (who handle oil) on the contents of the plan.
    • The SPCC plan must be kept onsite for EPA review. If a single spill of greater than 1,000 gallons occurs or two discharges of 42 gallons or more occur within one year, a copy of the SPCC plan must be submitted to the regional EPA office.
      • EPA Region 5: For more information call U.S. EPA Region 5 Oil Planning and Response Section: (312) 886-7187 or visit Region 5 Spill Prevention, Control and Countermeasure Plans (EPA).
      • The marina owner or manager must review SPCC plans at least every five years (40 CFR 112.5) or whenever significant changes in oil storage occur. A record of the review should be kept in the beginning of the plan, including the reviewer’s signature, date signed, and a list of any changes. Major changes such as new tank installations or removals may require a formal amendment signed by an engineer.
      • Your management should review and sign the plan every three years, even when there are no changes.
      • A facility response plan (FRP) may be required for certain facilities that store and use oil. The plan demonstrates the facility’s preparedness to respond to a worst case oil discharge. For more information, see: Facility Response Plan Rule (EPA).
      • Consult your state for additional requirements.

To support development of your SPCC plan, use the documents at Resources and Tools: Plans. However, these resources are a starting point, and it is very important to tailor the plan to your specific situation.

Develop Emergency Response Plans

  • Develop written procedures describing actions to be taken under given circumstances. The plans should be clear, concise and easy to read during an emergency; use a large font size for the plan.

Each emergency response plan should contain the following information:


  • In the very front of the plan, insert a laminated site plan of the facility showing valves, pipes, tanks, structures, roads, hydrants, docks, power and fuel shutoffs, hazardous material storage locations, and telephones.
  • Describe where response material is located.


  • Identify who is responsible (i.e., the assigned staff position) for taking what action, including deploying equipment, contacting emergency agencies. Per OSHA requirements, all marina staff to be involved with oil spill response must obtain Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (HAZWOPER) training; see “Train Employees” below.
  • Designate one marina staff person as the official spokesperson for the facility.
  • Include a list of emergency phone numbers: U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center, (800) 424-8802; state officials; local fire and police departments; the marina owner; neighboring marinas that have emergency response equipment; and spill response contractors.
  • Include a brief description of each agency’s jurisdiction and information about what type of equipment and services are available from neighboring marinas and spill response firms.


  • State what action should be taken during an emergency and, based on likely threats, what equipment should be deployed.
  • Include information about what type of equipment is available onsite and what its characteristics and capabilities are.
  • Characterize the facility’s waterfront and vessels.
  • Describe the type, amount and location of materials stored onsite, e.g., petroleum and hazardous materials. This will help first responders know what chemicals may be released when materials burn or are spilled.
  • Include plans for oil/waste disposal and decontamination.


  • Explain how equipment should be used and how materials should be disposed. A waste disposal contractor can handle these wastes; identify this entity in your plan. For more information see: Waste Management and Recycling Unit. Decontamination procedures are also important so that other areas of marina (and people) are not contaminated with oily wastes. This may be as simple as a designated wash down area to control access and departure from spill (hot zone) area and to collect oily coveralls and boots. Also, there should be a safety plan (part of emergency response plan) that ensures responders are trained, aware of potential risks and provided with appropriate personal protective equipment.Finally, plans should identify available response resources, call for hands-on training and drills, and address the need to replenish all used supplies and safety gear as necessary.


  • Indicate when additional resources should be called for assistance.
  • Update the plans annually to include any new technology or equipment and to confirm phone numbers.
  • Carryout and record scheduled employee training for implementing the plan.

 Make Emergency Plans Accessible

  • Keep copies of all emergency plans in a readily accessible location.
  • Place a second copy of the oil spill response plan (SPCC) in the oil spill response kit.

 Share Your Emergency Response Plans

  • Inform your local fire department and harbormaster, if applicable, about your emergency response plans and equipment.
  • Inform the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and local fire department of your plan and, specifically, what materials you store. This will allow them to provide prompter assistance. This will allow them to provide more prompt assistance. This is also a requirement for facilities covered by Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), see “File Tier II Forms” below.
  • Let neighboring marinas know what resources are available at your marina.

Be Prepared to Respond to a Spill

What do you do when oil, gas, or diesel is spilled on the water?

The following are general guidelines; you should always refer to your state and local laws for correct order of actions when responding to a spill.

  • Control — protect yourself, stop the source, protect others, and stay at the site.
  • Contact authorities — call the U.S. Coast Guard’s National Response Center at (800) 424-8802, state officials (see below), and local authorities (e.g., fire department, Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) emergency coordinator, etc.). Reporting contacts by state (for more information, see State Laws page):
    • Michigan:  All spills must be reported immediately to the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) Pollution Emergency Alert System at (800) 292-4706.
    • Ohio: Report spills to the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) at (800) 282-9378 and your local fire department.
    • Wisconsin: In Wisconsin, all spills must be reported immediately to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (WDNR) using the 24-hour toll-free hotline: (800) 943-0003.
  • Contain — confine the oil or diesel spill, protect water resources, recover and/or absorb liquids, and cover dry materials. However, do not try to confine gasoline spills. Due to the risk of explosive fumes or fires, gas spills should be allowed to dissipate and vaporize from the water surface.
  • Clean up — decontaminate the spill site.

Mandatory Responses

As discussed in the Legal Setting section for this unit:

  • You are required to contact state and federal authorities in the case of a spill that produces a sheen on the water. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Post the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center phone number (800-424-8802) and phone number for the local authority at various and appropriate areas of your marina to allow for the proper notification of a spill. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • The use of detergents to dissipate fuel spills on the water is prohibited. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

Calling the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center does not designate you as the responsible party for a spill, nor does it initiate a penalty against the reporter. The Response Center is used to disseminate information to all required agencies in a quick and efficient manner. Failure to report spills to the USCG National Response Center may result in civil penalties.

The U.S. Coast Guard will make the determination as to whether or not a response team will be sent to the facility, but the spill itself is still considered a violation.

Call the National Response Center if oil pollution floats into your marina from an unknown source. The U.S. Coast Guard will clean up the spill with their resources. They will also investigate and attempt to identify and eliminate the source of the spill. You will not be held liable for a spill that did not originate at your facility.

Be Prepared for a Fire

To be prepared for the event of a fire, your marina should meet the National Fire Protection Association’s standards for marinas: NFPA 303, Fire Protection Standards for Marinas and Boatyards; NFPA 302, Fire Protection Standards for Pleasure and Commercial Motor Craft; NFPA 30A, Automotive and Marine Service Station Code; NFPA 307, Standard for the Construction and Fire Protection of Marine Terminals, Piers, and Wharves; and NFPA 33, Standard for Spray Application Using Flammable and Combustible Materials.

National Fire Protection Association, consult your state for any additional requirements.

General Preparations

  • Schedule and maintain records from local and state fire inspections. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Be sure hydrants are available to allow for fighting fires throughout your facility.
  • Install smoke detectors.
  • Provide and maintain adequate, readily accessible and clearly marked fire extinguishers throughout the marina, especially near the fueling stations.
  • Inspect and test all firefighting equipment and systems regularly. Test fire extinguishers annually.
  • Train personnel on fire safety and response including who to call, location of hydrants and use of portable extinguisher.
  • Provide ready access to all piers, floats and wharves for municipal firefighting equipment.
  • Invite the local fire department to train at your marina annually with your employees. These annual visits will also help the fire department become familiar with your facility.

Train Employees

  • Annually train staff in fueling and spill prevention, containment and cleanup procedures and keep records of training. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

Free Staff Training Opportunity: Spill Prevention and Response for Marina Staff

Hosted by BoatU.S. Foundation with support from from National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, this course offers seasonal employees a critical learning tool which covers spill prevention, planning and response through the use of videos, interactive exercises and interviews with spill responders, marina owners and managers.
  • Any marina employee responding to an oil spill is required to obtain Occupational Safety and Health Administration Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response Standard (OSHA HAZWOPER) training (OSHA 29 CFR 1910.120). The three levels of emergency response with required employee training:
    • Level I — First Responder Awareness (4-8 Hours)
      Employees likely to witness or discover a hazardous substance release and whose actions would be limited to initiating an emergency response by notifying the proper authorities.
    • Level II — First Responder Operations (24 Hours)
      Employees who would respond to releases or potential releases of hazardous substances as part of the initial response for the purpose of protecting nearby persons, property or the environment from the effects of the release. Actions are limited to defensive measures to stop release and protect resources from a safe distance.
    • Level III — Hazardous Materials Technician (40 Hours)
      Employees who would respond to a release in a more aggressive way than Level II responders, such as plugging or patching containers and participating in cleanup of released materials.
      • Releases of known hazardous substances that can be controlled at the time of release by employees in the immediate area are not considered an “emergency response” operation covered by HAZWOPER standards.
      • Annual eight-hour refresher training is required at this level.
  • Review plans and response procedures with staff at the beginning of each boating season.
  • Train employees in the use of containment measures.
  • Run emergency response drills at least once a year.
  • Invite the U.S. Coast Guard and local fire department to demonstrate emergency response procedures at your marina.

Maintain Oil Spill Response Equipment

  • Maintain enough oil spill response equipment to contain the greatest potential spill at your facility. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Store enough booms to encircle the largest boat in your facility. Calculate that by taking the large vessel length and multiplying by three (vessel x 3 = required length of boom).
  • Recycle used oil absorbent materials if possible or dispose of them in accordance with petroleum disposal recommendations. See “Proper Disposal of Used Oil Spill Materials” in Waste Management and Recycling Unit. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

Store Oil Spill Response Equipment Wisely

  • Store the equipment in readily accessible locations, such as the fuel dock, launch and dry stack areas. Target areas with the greatest threat of an oil spill: fuel receiving and fuel dispensing areas. check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Store materials in an enclosed container or bin that is accessible to all staff — especially those who handle the fueling operations.
  • Mark the storage site with a sign labeled: “Oil Spill Response Kit.”
  • Include instructions for deploying pads and booms.
  • Include the information that all spills must be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at (800) 424-8802 and other officials (see requirements, above).
  • Consider leaving the storage container unlocked so that it is available to patrons, as well as to staff when needed.
    • If leaving the bin unlocked at all times is not feasible, try leaving it unlocked just on weekends and holidays when both activity and risk are greatest.
    • If the bin is left unlocked, check the inventory regularly.

Maintain Material Safety Data Sheets

  • Keep a file of Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) for all products used at your facility (including diesel and gas), as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (29 USC Sec. 657). check box for Regional Best Management Practice
  • Store the file in an office away from the material storage areas. MSDS sheets must be readily accessible to employees who use the chemicals, materials, or products; store the file in an office away from the material storage areas. Keep in mind that during an emergency this file will not tell you what quantity is onsite or even whether all the materials listed are present. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

File Tier II Forms

Facilities covered by Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) requirements must annually submit an Emergency and Hazardous Chemical Inventory Form to the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC), and the local fire department. This applies to marinas with 10,000 pounds or more of hazardous materials, including petroleum (approximately 1,250 gallons). Facilities must provide either a Tier I or Tier II form; most States require the Tier II form. Some states have specific requirements in addition to the federal Tier II requirements. Many accept forms through Tier2 Submit, an online tool that help facilities prepare an electronic chemical inventory report).

  • File required paperwork (e.g., Tier II forms) with the appropriate emergency management authorities for hazardous waste, including petroleum. check box for Regional Best Management Practice

Next: Unit Review