In addition to the normal disasters that industries in manufacturing face, firms in the oil and gas industry face their own. Disasters, both general and industry-specific, are not only an ever-present danger but usually catastrophic. Just look at the BP Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Piper Alpha fire rig disaster, and countless others. Due to the volatile nature of the products, and the possibility of human error, the oil and gas industry, quite simply, faces bigger risks.
To mitigate risk, organizations in the oil and gas industry need to have emergency response plans in place. This is to ensure stakeholders know how to respond in the case of a disaster. Responding properly eliminates or minimizes human casualties, prevents or minimizes environmental impact, and ensures an organization can return to normal operating conditions without major financial impact.
Given the repercussions of not handling disasters well – such as losing permits and licenses, bad PR, fines and facing suits – firms in the industry must ensure that they are adequately prepared for disasters. Listed below are some ways in which operators in the oil and gas industry can ensure they have effective emergency response plans in place:
1. Identify hazards and resources at risk
In this phase, site-specific risks, ideally identified in an all-risks assessment, are selected and listed. They include both natural and man-made risks such as earthquakes, hurricanes, fires and human-errors. This stage specifically involves:
- Identifying risks associated with an organization’s operations and oil/gas activities
- Identifying risks likely to affect resources and assets
- Identifying resources at risk (personnel, physical assets and the environment)
- Coming up with risk control measures to mitigate risks to identified resources
2. Implement an Emergency Response Plan
An emergency response plan helps an organization to be better placed to handle any emergencies and disasters. It is meant to allow for communication, response actions and cooperation within the organization and external stakeholders. This is to ensure incidents are dealt with in a cohesive manner. In addition, it identifies the personnel, roles, and responsibilities needed to deal with various types of incidents.
3. Identify Resources and Equipment
Resources required to respond to an incident are identified. The resources are assigned roles. Equipment such as roadblock kits, communication equipment, firefighting equipment, gas/oil monitoring systems etc. are also identified and put in place for easy retrieval.
4. Communicate with stakeholders about responding to an emergency
Effective emergency response requires that various stakeholders be notified of pertinent information. For example, employees and management need to be notified of the policies, procedures and actions they should take in case of an emergency. Oversight bodies and governmental agencies will require various undertakings by the organizations such as emergency response plans be formulated and submitted. People in the emergency planning zone should also be informed of what to do in case of an emergency and ways to communicate with them established.
5. Train Emergency Response Personnel
Training exercises are vital for preparing for responding to an incident. Training helps in the familiarization of personnel with emergency policies, plans, actions, roles and responsibilities, improving coordination of various actions and drills, analysis of decisions made and action taken and planning for emergency incidents in a less pressured manner. Implementing different types of training will prove invaluable when or if emergency response personnel have to respond to an incident. Different types of training are eLearning; classroom and field activities and full-scale emergency response drills.
6. Evaluate, review and update emergency response plan
As technology and operational environment change, an organization should continually review its emergency response plan to keep it current. When an incident actually happens, the emergency response plan should be evaluated for effectiveness and shortcomings addressed.
Planning for emergencies should be a proactive activity and not a reactive one.