KEY WEST — Three years ago, the U.S. Coast Guard Key West Sector and other agencies compiled a massive Florida Keys emergency preparation and response manual to deal with everything from weapons of mass destruction to tanker oil spills.
But the 725-page manual did not include an incident like the Deepwater Horizon blowout, in which an oil spill could come from hundreds of miles away.
That long distance, however, has given Keys emergency responders the luxury of time to mobilize resources and to come up with a plan to deal with the possibility of an onslaught of tar balls and other forms of weathered oil.
``We are watching very closely what's happening in Mobile [Ala.] and other incident command posts to see what works and does not work,'' said Coast Guard Capt. Pat DeQuattro, commander of Sector Key West, who is overseeing the oil spill response preparation for the island chain.
``For our mission, the environmental response, it's a huge advantage,'' DeQuattro said.
It's also a huge advantage for the Keys that the oil will have time to biodegrade and become less toxic if it is to make the long journey.
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