I spend a lot of time talking about emergency preparedness for electric and gas utilities, but the same concepts also apply to hazardous spills in sectors of energy such as oil and petroleum. In fact, I would argue that being prepared for a hazardous spill may be even more important than for a large-scale power outage, mainly due to the environmental & health impacts of a spill, as well as the potentially high cost of fines and civil liabilities.
Generally speaking, hazardous spills can be classified as incidental or emergency. Incidental spills can be cleaned up by internal employees, assuming they are properly trained on such things. These types of spills are smaller, have relatively low levels of toxicity, and do not present a substantial safety or health risk. Emergency spills are obviously of greater severity, are highly toxic, and often involve evacuations and/or the deployment of HAZMAT cleanup operations.
Difference between Hazardous Spills and Outage Emergencies
Dealing with hazardous spills requires a specialized training regimen, and response to such events should be practiced via exercises and drills. The main difference, compared to electric utility preparedness efforts, is that spill training is more intensive. This makes sense given the health and safety challenges of toxic material cleanup. But although the training is more intense, the process of practicing response via drills and exercises is essentially the same. For the most part, best practices for conducting response drills can be shared across all utility sectors.
I stumbled upon a great resource for emergency spill preparedness and training. Check out emergency-response-planning.com for a detailed overview of response training for hazardous spills and a downloadable exercise guide.