BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil spill on April 20, 2010 was the largest disaster of its kind in history and its negative impact on the economy ran in the tens of billions of dollars and caused irreversible damage to the environment.
To help preventable disasters like this from occurring again, the Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness at Nova Southeastern University’s (NSU) College of Osteopathic Medicine created Project SEAMIST (South East Area Marine Industry Safety Training) in 2010, funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) of the National Institutes of Health.
“Project SEAMIST provides training so that vessels and seaports can function safely and efficiently, supporting an important economic component of Florida and the Gulf Coast,” said Stephen Grant, Ph.D., primary investigator of the grant and associate professor of public health, NSU’s College of Osteopathic Medicine.
As a result of its initial successes, the NIEHS awarded an initial $590,000 to NSU’s Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness and recommended a total award of $4,289,274 over a five-year period (2015-20) to continue to the program and enhance its offerings.
During the first five years (2010-15) of Project SEAMIST, the program developed a set of safety training curricula specifically targeting the unique hazards of the marine industry and environment.
It provided 120 training sessions to nearly 3,000 workers throughout the Gulf Coast states (Alabama, Florida, Louisiana and Mississippi) and Virginia, including law enforcement officers, port workers, safety trainers, vessel operators and crew members, cruise ship employees and medical personnel.
“The new funding will allow us to continue to provide this training, to evaluate and upgrade our training materials, to expand to new areas of industry, such as ship building, and to deliver our training in multiple languages and online,” Grant said. “The largest new initiative is to develop and provide training specifically for marine disaster responders by and helping train workers and port security in the maritime industry how to deal with oil spills to both protect themselves and the environment.”
This new addition to Project SEAMIST will end up spearheaded by a co-collaborator, Kristi Messer, M.S.W., M.P.H., assistant project manager, Institute for Disaster and Emergency Preparedness and assistant professor, Master of Public Health Program and Disaster and Emergency Preparedness, NSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Messer developed the complementary Hazardous Material Maritime Industry Response Training Safety Initiative (HasMIRTSI) training initiative to enable workers in the industry to reduce injuries and death related to all disasters and emergencies involving hazardous materials.