FMSAS is a GIS used in response to oil or chemical spills. By providing timely assessments of the potential impacts on surrounding habitats, decision-makers can better determine cleanup procedures, thereby minimizing ecological damage and monetary loss.
The Florida Marine Spill Analysis System (FMSAS) is a powerful geographic information system (GIS) application that allows users to conduct oil spill planning activities and manage response and mitigation efforts during an actual spill. Spill planning and response activities have always relied on maps and charts to display information. From simple notes on nautical charts to specialized maps showing the location of sensitive resources or the location of an oil slick, many of the essential information components of planning and response actions require geospatial data. It is only natural that the application of geographic information systems (GIS) would expand to include response and planning functions. The FMSAS is designed to address five aspects of oil spill management:
- Contingency planning
- On-scene spill tracking and analysis
- Long-term monitoring
- Damage assessment
- General oil spill GIS data management
The FMSAS uses layers of geographic data, imagery, and specialized tools to provide spatial analysis that can be distributed quickly as maps, tables, and charts. This information provides a foundation for decision-makers to assess the type and location of oil spill containment strategies and cleanup operations to minimize ecological damage and economic loss. The FMSAS focuses efforts on resource protection and is used to assess the extent of damage or potential damage to coastal and marine environments from a large spill.
The FMSAS has been awarded several national and regional awards for technology and resource protection. For its role in the 1993 Tampa Bay oil spill, the FMSAS was awarded finalist for "Innovation in State and Local Government" by The Ford Foundation of the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1996, the FMSAS was awarded the "Outstanding Achievement Award" by Renewable Natural Resources Foundation. In 2000, the FMSAS received the Gulf Guardian Award, sponsored by the U.S. EPA's Gulf of Mexico Program.
The FMSAS is at the heart of the state of Florida and FWRI's oil spill technical activities which also include Environmental Sensitivity Index data maintenance , Area Contingency Plan creation for the U.S. Coast Guard Distict Seven Marine Safety Office, and recently, testing for GIS based field data collection and real-time response using ArcPad 6.0 from Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc. (ESRI).
The Fish and Wildlife Research Institute has partnered with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection's Bureau of Emergency Response (BER) to provide GIS technical support for the FMSAS, which is deployed at each regional office of the BER and is regularly used in the field by BER staff. FWRI staff regularly participate in regional "spill drills" to enhance preparedness and build relationship with other response organizations, both public and private. The U.S. Coast Guard and BER are frequent participants in these drills.
The FMSAS is in a constant state of development and enhancement. New applications are being discovered as the use of GIS technology becomes increasingly mainstream. The FMSAS has been used as the template for the development of several other environmental, coastal, and marine resource management systems. These include applications for the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (NJDEP), the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), and the Petroleum Institute of Colombia (ECOPETROL). Many valuable tools and functions are available within the FMSAS, and these other applications have adopted and, in some cases, expanded core FMSAS functionality to adapt to other related analytical tasks.
Fish and Wildlife Research Institute remains committed to continuing development of the FMSAS and the tools within it to support oil spill preparedness and effective coastal and marine resource protection.