This subject is the key to the any response, if the management team fails the response fails too.
When an oil spill occurs, many agencies may be involved. For this purpose, some countries have developed Incident Command Systems (ICS) and Unified Command Teams, where all the relevant bodies, government, environment and responsible company may be represented in the unified command structure.
A structure is necessary but the people in the various positions need to know how the structure works, know there responsibilities. What ever system you use the main players need to train together so that when a real event happens everyone know the capabilities of the others in the team.
Well trained teams start the process whereas adhoc teams can start with the headless chicken syndrom where everyone runs around in circles and no decisions are made. Unfortunately this happens in various places usually with a group of egotisical people.
The ICS was developed in the 70’s by
The National Incident Management System (NIMS) came about as a direct result of the terrorist attack on the twin towers in New York on September 11, 2001.
Weaknesses in incident management were often due to:
Emergency managers determined that the existing management structures — frequently unique to each agency — did not scale to dealing with massive mutual aid responses involving dozens of distinct agencies and when these various agencies worked together their specific training and procedures clashed. As a result, a new command and control paradigm was collaboratively developed to provide a consistent, integrated framework for the management of all incidents from small incidents to large, multi-agency emergencies.
On February 28, 2003, President Bush issued Homeland Security Presidential Directive 5. HSPD-5 directed the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop and administer a National Incident Management System (NIMS).
NIMS provides a consistent nationwide template to enable all government, private-sector, and nongovernmental organizations to work together during domestic incidents.
An ICS is based upon a flexible, scalable response organization providing a common framework within which people can work together effectively.
Right ICS-100 basic organization chart.
People may be drawn from multiple agencies that do not routinely work together, and ICS is designed to give standard response and operation procedures to reduce the problems and potential for miscommunication on such incidents.
ICS has been summarised as a "first-on-scene" structure, where the first responder of a scene has charge of the scene until the incident has been declared resolved, or a more qualified responder arrives on scene and receives command, or the Incident Commander appoints another individual Incident Commander.
An interactive site with the full descriptions of positions and responsibilities can be found on the links page as Interactive ICS.
It was given to the Coast Guard to make it work, it started with the military and now has gone back to the military not a good sign! Military people love numbers/codes for everything so all the report forms are numbered which when you who are not used to the system are expected to work with these people, it drives you mad before you start.
e.g. the first forms required for an incident action plan to be conceived are 201, 202, 204, 215 and 234.
Many of these forms have kept the numbers but had the text altered by different organisations e.g. USCG and Homeland Security to name but two.
As with most things the system is excellent for those trained to use it, the problem is finding the right people to fit in the right boxes.
The Deepwater Horizon response centre had approx. 1000 personnel. The system is one problem but this amount of people can get out of hand.
If those in command don't hang their ego's up at the door then this can turn into a committee and take more time to make decisions. This leads to long winded discussion rather than the rapid decision making which is necessary.
Left is the Planning section for DWH, Houma, Louisiana, USA, 2010.
Many of the major oil companies with operations outside the US are now training their staff in ICS, of course it is done in the English language.
This causes a problem because other organisations outside the US want to adopt the system, unfortunately in most cases they do not speak English.
In many of these cases each organisation invents their own system which will not integrate with any other system when they need to e.g. ICS is used by The Fire Department of the State of Rio de Janeiro (CBMERJ), Brasil in every emergency or large-scale event. But not all the other fire departments in other states use it.
Below are some of the Key concepts
Unity of command
Each individual participating in the operation reports to only one supervisor. This eliminates the potential for individuals to receive conflicting orders from a variety of supervisors, therefore increasing accountability, preventing freelancing, improving the flow of information, helping with the coordination of operational efforts, and enhancing operational safety.
Individual response agencies previously developed their protocols separately, and their terminology separately. This lead to confusion as a word may have a different meaning for each organisation.
When different organizations are required to work together, the use of common terminology is essential for team cohesion and communications, both internally and with other organisations responding to the incident.
An incident command system promotes the use of a common terminology and has an associated glossary of terms that help bring consistency to position titles, the description of resources and how they can be organized, the type and names of incident facilities, and a host of other subjects. The use of common terminology is most evident in the titles of command roles, such as Incident Commander, Safety Officer or Operations Section Chief.
Management by objective
Incidents are managed by aiming towards specific objectives. Objectives are ranked by priority; should be as specific as possible; must be attainable; and if possible given a working time-frame. Objectives are accomplished by first outlining strategies, then determining the appropriate tactics for the chosen strategy.
Flexible and modular organisation
Incident Command structure is organised in such a way as to expand and contract as needed by the incident scope, resources and hazards. Command is established from the top-down, with the most important positions established first. For example, Incident Command is established by the first arriving unit.
Only positions that are required at the time should be established. In most cases, very few positions within the command structure will need to be activated. For example, a single fire truck at a dumpster fire will have the officer filling the role of IC, with no other roles required. As more trucks get added to a larger incident, more roles will be delegated to other officers and the Incident Commander (IC) role will probably be handed to a more-senior officer.
Span of control
To limit the number of responsibilities and resources being managed by any individual, the ICS requires that any single person's span of control should be between 3 and 7 individuals, with 5 being ideal.
In other words, one manager should have no more than 7 people working under them at any given time. If more than 7 resources are being managed by an individual, then they are being overloaded and the command structure needs to be expanded by delegating responsibilities (e.g. by defining new sections, divisions, or task forces). If fewer than 3, then the position's authority can probably be absorbed by the next highest in the chain of command
There are a couple of sites on the internet where you can update your ICS training, unfortunately for any citizen other than American, if you cannot provide your American Social Security number then even if you passed with flying colours you do not get a certificate.
It seem very short sighted to me that you invent a system which you want everyone to use, but you do not want to share it. I have certificates for ICS-100 and 310 Intermediate Incident Commander but only because I did the course in Houston, Texas.
There are some excellent ideas like the Planning "P" right which breaks down into easily managed section what is required from each section to produce for an incident action plan for each working period.
It should also be said that over 90% of incidents do not enter into the round part of the "P".
Due to this many countries have taken ICS e.g. the United Kingdom, who refined it to work for their civilian response organisations, here forms have names not numbers.
Over the years and during various incidents it was refined further to become a very good system when the involved parties train together for the next emergency.
The phrase why re-invent the wheel coms to mind. Computers are a good tool when they work! here we have a "T" Card system which has been used for years for maintainance and in the fire brigade. It is a good visual of who and what has been deployed during an incident.
Colour coding is used for different resourses. They are placed in a rack, obviously the larger the incident the more space is required
Within each one of these groups, all of the related work is controlled. The organisation can also be expanded or reduced according to the severity of the incident just like the original ICS. (Since the Maconda incident 2010 there is a move closer to the US ICS system)
The system has been widely adopted by the members of the European Union (EU) and if all of the emergency response organisations adopt the same system, it will be very easy for the agencies to work together during an international incident. As with Sea Empress 1996, Wales, Erika 1999, France and Presige 2002, Spain.
Before the Sea Empress oil spill in South Wales, UK in 1996, the Texaco Tier 2 response team at Milford Haven was well organised and had a good plan which was regularly exercised. As a result, it was able to cope with the rapid expansion to Tier 3 required during this major spill.
It also has to be mentioned that many members of the management team had been involved with the Braer oil spill in Shetland Isles, UK in 1991 and had worked together on exercises and other oil spills in the intervening years. Having a group of people who know each other and the rolls they can fulfill makes life much easier when an incident arises. Unfortunately many of these people have now retired, left the industry or work overseas.
In the United Kingdom we started with the 9 steps to response. This was the basic framework to get you started.
1 Assess the situation
2 Activate contingency plan
3 Prepare response action plan
4 Activate organisational response
5 Activate operational response
6 Manage on-going response
7 Deactivate response
8 Consolidate costs
9 Debrief and report
The size of the organisation will depend on the size of the incident. It’s not the size of the spill (Volume) that matters, rather the size of the threat and the impacts, on the environment as well as politically issues.
An organisation should be capable of being expanded or contracting, according to the nature of the incident. This means that the personnel involved will have to be multifunctional, especially in the smaller structures. Very few spills start at the tier 3 level they normally start as a small tier 1 or medium tier 2, as time and tide spread the spill they move up in levels as they become more difficult to control. The team will expand with the amount of extra control necessary and as the spill comes under control and the workforce is reduced in numbers, the team also reduces in number.
The command team must dedicate itself solely to the spill response or be part of a larger team. In some cases, an established emergency team has oil pollution as part of its responsibilities. If this is not the case, spill specialists should be bought in to be part of the response structure.
Many of the functions of an emergency team will be relevant for oil spills, such as functions of logistics, history, specialist’s in the areas of meteorology and oceanography, management, safety and medicine.
Ad hoc teams may come together at the time of a spill but this will only be effective operationally if the specialisation and availability of the personnel are guaranteed, otherwise the emergency response will fail.
Oil spill organisations should take into account the culture and the authority regimes in the countries where they could be expected to operate.
Four alternatives exist:
Whatever the situation is, the organisation of the company needs to be capable of operating efficiently under the regime that is imposed. A team should be versatile, in talents as well as in structure.
Left is the control centre for the Sea Empress incident Wales, UK 1996
Mobile teams should make sure they are really capable of answering to the countries under the areas of operation or responsibility. The visas of the personnel and the medical requisites should be in order and the appropriate arrangements should be made for the transportation for the equipment, team, communications equipment, computers, etc.
Short notice call-ups and notification for travel tickets should be possible as well as access to large amounts of money to overcome short-term difficulties.
Team training is a vital element. Ad hoc teams can suffer during emergencies, since they need time to get organised and begin to work together.
Many oil companies have crisis teams, whose function is to respond to broad crisis matters.
The operational team should be involved only in the operational aspects with respect to the site of the spill. In any event, the responsibilities of each team should be clearly defined.
It is essential that an agreement be reached about who is in overall control. There is nothing more discouraging that having one’s decisions ignored and instructions modified. A single clear and agreed-upon command structure, with the definition of authority and responsibility, avoids all this and just by itself, results in efficiency.
Responsibilities of the groups
The organisation should have the capacity to carefully evaluate the spill, make the response plans, execute these plans and cover the necessary expenditures. Things will begin to cost more as the public begin to realise the gravity of the problem. Equipment and PPE should if possible be purchased away from the site of the incident to keep prices down. Once word gets out in the newspapers all prices will rise. It is a natural human trait to try and get rich quick.
The response teams require clear objectives. Many times this is more difficult than it seems, given that politics, reputation, pressure from the press and reaction by the local community can lead the organisation to actions that are taken not from a purely technical point of view but more to appease these people.
This is a position with all the responsibility of the response, the pressure of the position is very high and in the public eye.
E.g. on April 10 1991 in Livorno, Italy a ferry the Moby Prince collided with the tanker Agip Abruzzo, 140 people lost their lives. Admiral A. Alarti appointed himself the commander of this operation, then on April 11 further north near
Other commanders like Frank Larossi President of Exxon Shipping believe he was scapegoated for the Valdez incident and left Exxon 18 months later. Tony Hayward was removed from his position as CEO of BP for things he said during the Deepwater Horizon response.
The Commander should be in executive positions and have responsibility to authorise the necessary operations and actions and to assume the consequences of failure. Quick decisions have to be made and having to wait for someone higher to say yes or no to the expenditure slows the response.
The functions of Commander are:
The Commander will be supported by a liaison group that will guarantee that the following interested or affected groups will be adequately informed.
The liaison group should also guarantee that those within the organisation are kept up to date about progress.
In this modern technological world, news of an incident will follow the sun around the planet. An incident that happened late at night in
Big incidents make big news so a media team needs to be set up to work with and answer questions nearly 24 hour per day.
With the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Mexican Gulf the web site came of age. There was the official response site, the Government agency web site, the BP corporate site and also the Social media sites of Twitter and Facebook.
Many films were on Youtube and photos on Flicker. The use of this form of comunication kept people informed on a day to day basis without so much interference for the command centre. Many with no control by the command of the incident.
In retrospect the live links to the ROV's was probably not a good idea as they ran on CNN all day, annoying the pubic more than necessary.
Unfortunately in these situations once you start you cannot go back or the pubic outcry gets worse.
Information needs to be obtained from aerial surveillance as well as from the sea. The information collected should be reported and evaluated by the planning team in order to come up with the best response strategy, keeping in mind the probable destination of the oil, the resources at risk, the degree of sensitivity in the area and the true capacity for their protection.
The capacity for protection is dependent on the equipment available and on the environment in which the spill took place. Environmental specialist should be included in this group. Bearing in mind that there will never be sufficient equipment or man power to protect everything, success or failure can be measured by referring to the original evaluation.
Good contingency plans can help here. In the event that they are not available, then the work of evaluation becomes much more important. The group should prepare its recommendations for the response and give it to the Commander with regular updates on how things are going.
This team is responsible for the implantation of the recommended strategy.
The team will either execute the operation by itself or will select a contracted party to do it. In any event, the members of the operations team should be skilled in the techniques of oil spill response, so as to execute or direct the operations.
Supervisors of spill operations should guarantee that their activities be adequately recorded for purposes of accounting and reporting.
Supervisors will only carry out the response set down by the command team. In many cases pressure from locals is put on response teams in the field to do work that they think is more important. If this happens the command structure fails and the media have a great story.
Transportation of Personnel
It might be necessary to evacuate a large number of people from the vicinity of the spill and all means of transportation should be utilised. Once again, safety is extremely important and the personnel should be instructed and any statutory requirements.
Reconnaissance flights by helicopter and fixed wing aircraft, should be provided, together with the necessary safety equipment.
When using maritime transportation, the provision for adequate lifesaving equipment must be taken into consideration. In the event personnel from other countries are brought in, the problem for requesting visas and the immigration procedures need to be included in the Contingency Plan.
Transportation of Equipment
One of the principal difficulties that is often encountered during the response to a spill is the problem of getting equipment to the site of the incident quickly.
It is wise to adopt a policy that all of the equipment acquired needs to be as light as possible, in order to maximise the options of freight. All of the equipment should be packaged and be ready for loading, preferably with simple elevators. This reduces the possibility of leaving equipment behind.
Inventories of all equipment should be attached to their packages and correctly marked for embarkation. When loading equipment, it is necessary to drain the fuel to a minimum, remove batteries or disconnect them before their shipment. This means a suppler of fuel, spares and transport will need to be ready when the equipment arrives at its destination.
Customs and Documentation
When taking equipment across international borders, the customs problems and the importation procedures need to be resolved. When major incidents occur, a state of emergency should be declared.
During the first stages of a response, customs formalities may be dispensed with. However, as the emergency situation goes on, these procedures will be gradually re-introduced. For this reason, it is prudent to prepare the documentation as up-to-date as possible. Requirements are owner, client, weight, dimensions and cost.
When a piece of equipment is temporarily imported, it is a good procedure to identify a customs agent so that he can clear the freight as soon as possible. Measures for customs clearance should be discussed in the stage of customs clearance.
On many occasions equipment is imported into a country but when it is time return it many problems exist and the equipment remains there. This also depends on how corrupt the country is. Payments to release equipment are common in some countries.
Provisions must be made with respect to the equipment in order to facilitate the handling, as well as the loading and stacking of the parts. The best form of transportation should be considered, such as trucks with lifting platforms, hoists, etc.
The recipient can be faxed or e-mailed the dimensions and weight of the equipment to allow for the correct size of transport to be ordered.
Vehicles for rough terrain can help with transportation in coastal areas, making the operation safer as well as more efficient.
It should be noted that some countries laws do not allow heavy goods vehicles on the road during the weekend. This can be a real problem when the spill happens on Friday.
When dealing with larger equipment that will installed at sea, the adequacy of the vessel must be taken into account. The vessel needs to have adequate facilities for operations at sea in order to operate in the local environment.
Additionally, enough deck space needs to be made available in order to permit adequate operation of the equipment. Appropriate measures need to be taken to securely tie down or weld the equipment on board the vessel, for transportation as well as for use.
The crane capacity for or on the vessel should be verified to guarantee that it is capable of handling the loads.
Typically, the limits on embarkation of larger equipment are based on the availability of adequate aircraft and airports and their proximity to the incident.
The door sizes are frequently a limiting factor for loading equipment, given that the availability of cargo aircraft, with large access doors, is very restricted. At certain times of the year such as Christmas very few cargo aircraft are available, to cover this large response companies charter aircraft for this period.
Storage of Equipment
When equipment is loaded for transportation to the site of the spill, certain measures need to be taken for safe storage in a holding area.
This area needs to be protected with a security guard and some means for the control of the equipment. This will allow for a careful control of stock and maintenance of records, which is necessary for the objective of response.
Since the September 11 attacks, cargo handling regulations have become much more security bases and require much more information, this needs to be in place before the incident happens to make the response smoother.
Facilities need to be provided for the maintenance of the equipment in the field, given that they are often operated under extremely conditions for long periods.
Cleanup equipment must be available as well as workshop facilities in order to provide for a reasonable chance of success with maintenance in the field.
Spare parts should be acquired and, preferably, spares kits of parts which are known to be problematic should be sent along with the equipment.
Cleanliness of the Equipment and the Personnel
Provisions need to be made for the cleaning of the equipment after the conclusion of the cleanup operations. This needs to be provided in an area with safe drainage in order to avoid subsequent contamination of the environment.
As with the cleaning of the equipment, means should be found for the decontamination of protective clothing (PPE – Personal Protective Equipment) and people.
Disposal of the Recovered Oil and Waste
One area that is often forgotten during the planning is that of physical and logistics problems and procedures for the treatment of oil residues and oily material. The solutions for these problems can be very difficult this is one of the main reasons why they do not get finalised. The following points need to be taken into consideration and planned for ahead of time:
The logistics department must guarantee that adequate records are kept, this is especially important when expenses are incurred and passed along to the financial department for processing and in the future the accounts may be requisitioned by the Insurance companies.
All of the members of the response team must be fully informed about safety-related issues. They must deal with their own actions, as well as the safety of others.
In certain places in the world, there are legal requirements for the completion of certain statutory training, before employing personnel in cleanup operations.
There will be the need to acquire significant quantities of protective clothing and possibly clothing for protection against climatic conditions.
Provisions must also be made for hygienic installations for the work force.
The Command center
The Command Centre
Regardless of the size or location, the following needs to be available at the
Information is best written on A1 paper or projected onto a wall so that relief team members can get up to speed on the situation without disturbing the operation. Large amounts of wall space are necessary. The use of computers for this is much more difficult to do in an ad hoc facility.
Laptop computers can be a real problem as people get so engrosed in what they are doing the forget to talk to other people.
There should also be sufficient space for team members to work with some degree of comfort, as well as safe nearby areas where planning meetings may be held.
Try to use one room for the actual response team as when different rooms are used for different groups lack of communication becomes a big problem.
Some measures also need to be taken with respect to the press who, without doubt will visit the Command Centre, at some point. Measures should be taken to accommodate the press in a place far from the principal operations rooms, where they may be controlled.
The security of the Command Centre is also important in order to guarantee that welcome and unwelcome visitors can be controlled.
A system using identification badges perhaps is necessary to guarantee continuous control.
During the Sea Empress incident 1996 UK a separate mock up of the control room was manned during the visit of Prince Charles and his people, to allow him to see what was happening without actually interfering with the response operation itself.
The planning cycle is used to illustrate the scale of time within which the tasks are completed. On a daily basis, the information gathered should be submitted to the executive meeting at the end of the day by the heads of each section. The plans for the following day should be made at these meetings. Waiting for the next day to organise them is not worth the effort. This should be done at night.
Good communications are vital, in order to receive, pass along or process information. Additional communications are vital for safe operations and are central for the response process to an emergency and for long-term cleanup.
The principal office, the on-site command post and the field operations should be connected by a good system of communications. Pre-planning can take a long time to achieve success in this area.
Communications also need to be managed within the command post. Poor management of internal communications can lead to problems; communications is the key to an efficient response.
At least one spare telephone number should be kept secret from the outside, this is because there are times when all phones are busy with incoming calls and important information needs to be given to someone. If possible a spare fax is useful too.
Security of communications
It is essential that the messages transmitted to the diverse elements of the team be maintained confidential. Messages transmitted by VHF may be easily intercepted and monitored. Fixed telephones may also be scanned by members of the press and random listeners.
Specialists in communications should be employed in the pre-planning stage in order to guarantee that the means available in the area of operations be fully used to guarantee that confidentiality is not violated.
Means of Communication
Some forms of communication necessary for coordination of the response.
Verbal – At the beginning of the spill, everyone wants to be the first to know, thus it is important that all the correct personnel know and understand the strategy and plans, and act accordingly. The persons in charge of Public Relations (PR) should not be left out, because they cannot work without facts. It must be guaranteed that information is sent frequently to the correct personnel so they are updated about the progress of the operations.
Telephone – All of the supervisors in the
In some areas cellular telephone networks can collapse under the amount of usage, the huge amount of dead areas for these make them useful on occasion.
E-mail– It is important that this equipment is available, so that a copy is obtained when products are requested or authorisations obtained. Facts may be misunderstood by telephone.
Fax machines should be positioned and looked at regularly to keep ink and paper functioning, on numerous occasions information is lost for hours or days because the paper slid under a table.
VHF - The Command Centre must have a base station of VHF equipment in order to make possible communications with supervisors in the field. It is an ideal form of communications for offshore spills, because almost every ship has a VHF radio. Repeater stations need to be available. Field supervisors should be provided with hand-held VHF equipment. Radios should also be distributed with backup batteries and re-chargers. The personnel using VHF should be informed about standard VHF procedures. People who have never used a radio before are very careful with them and should receive some basic training. In many countries a license is require to use this type of radio.
Satellite Communications - Long distance voice and fax communications may be achieved with satellite communications equipment. Despite being expensive due to their initial cost and not inexpensive to be operated, the rent and careful use may justify as an expense is valuable to the Response Organisation. Many so called third world countries because of worries about coops will not allow these into the country as they have no way of monitoring the conversations.
General – The following points will be of assistance for making communications more efficient and useful.
An official record of all communications is mandatory. Tables listing calls and contacts should be available in strategic points.
In a spill offshore, a monitoring helicopter must have direct voice contact with the ship applying dispersants or the ships recovering the oil. This will be made by means of FM or VHF.
Communications should be checked and tested on a regular basis, with respect to the exercise and any deficiencies in the utilisation, capacities and capabilities should be corrected. Training and qualification in the use of communications equipment and procedures could be a legal requirement.
Where people have to work out of sight of each other, intercommunication and communication with the supervisor are essential. Personal radios are the obvious solution, but skill in using the equipment must be taken into account, as well as the need for licensing. Personal Emergency Lamps and Signalers should be provided to personnel, where appropriate with the appropriate training.
Verbal communication is not always feasible, either because of the noise generated at the scene of an incident by transfer pumps, skimmers, blowers, etc., or because of the use of individual protection equipment such as protective masks, limiting verbal communication. In this case, teams brought in should be given a set of hand signals that may be essential for communication between workers in specific situations. Again the use of small groups is essential.
Radio communication must be accurate, concise and efficient. Procedures for using radios are simple, speak clearly in short sentences allowing others to use the radio net. It is not there just for you, nor is it a chat line.
Repeater stations are frequently used to boost signals and allow more distance to the radio net. Usually one of the first jobs for some of the team is to sort this out on nearby high ground of cause in a secure location.
All members of teams attending an emergency should be familiar with the International Phonetic Alphabet.
INTERNATIONAL PHONETIC ALPHABET
(Used during all radio communications)
When calling someone up, always identify yourself twice and wait for an answer before calling again, otherwise you will be talking over the other person’s response. Be brief so as not to occupy the frequency for too long, and put off talking about your fishing exploits until you get back to base.
Accidents happen during incident and exercises and help may be needed quickly this is impossible if there is no break in conversations. According to the legislation (SOLAS), H class vessels (coastal) must have on board a maritime VHF radio; D class vessels (ocean going) must have an SSB radio.
Radio communications as well as cellular phone conversations can be scanned and during an incident will be, especially by the media. In certain circumstances code words are required. This is not to keep things secret from the public but to allow the command centre time to respond to a given problem. Radio communications at sea tend to be very good but on shorelines dependent on the terrain are not so good in many cases you can see the person you want to talk to but cannot get him on the radio.
During a spill from a Mexican well blowout, I was driven to write the following forms of communications to remind certain people of the need for good communications;
These are all forms of communication we have used for a few years in some cases or many thousands of years in others, we have them all at our disposal. Why then when a problem arrives do we have so much trouble communicating with our colleagues even in some cases in the same room?
Before moving on here is a brilliant example of nearly getting what you wanted.
Someone in the Middle East asked for the new road tanker to have signs saying Diesel Fuel and No Smoking in Arabic photo right is the result. Thanks Bill for the photo.
It has been said elsewhere that the least favourable time for planning an emergency is during an emergency. In a short period of time, people need to make decisions and there is little time to think. The thinking, therefore, should be done before the emergency arises an incident like this can affect the entire company. This is sometimes called Contingency Planning or Crisis Management Planning.
The principal role of the Crisis Management Team
An essential ingredient for crisis management is the rapid and careful assimilation of all relevant facts. Installed in the proper place, a system (Software) that provides all of these facts at the moment of an accident is all part of the planning process.
Facts and information need to be evaluated and a decision taken if an accident is stable or if it is likely to become a crisis. The position of the polluting company should be established in reference to the impact that the crisis has on its image, reliability and loss of potential.
The quality of information should be evaluated constantly in order to guarantee that the decisions are based on complete and truthful information.
Erroneous decisions may seriously affect the image of the company, undermine its commitment of social responsibility and its right to operate and affect its income, thus affecting it financial.
Major decisions need to be taken about practical and logistical management of the response in itself.
The crisis planning process
A big oil spill can be very dangerous for the company involved. Public opinion can cause a run on the stock exchange as in the case of BP (Deepwater Horizon) when nearly 40% was wiped off the companies value. This was just one of the photos banded about on the internet. This sort of image right may cause regional or international problems for a company. It will remain in the minds of the public for a long time.
The same thing happened to Exxon with the Valdez incident.
All of imaginable responsibilities should be delegated before an emergency.
During a crisis, personnel trained for their respective responsibilities should execute them.
Potential problems should be anticipated and analysed. It is impossible to anticipate every potential problem; however, a detailed audit could expose problems that might contribute to a crisis in some other way, in the event they are not delegated.
A Directorate of Emergency Response should be defined. There are many important people who need to receive information during a crisis. Effective communications need to be established. The internal and external system of communications of the company needs to be tested to confront any emergency. Trained and designated representative personnel need to be nominated in order to deal with the press. The plan should be rehearsed and tested. The information should be kept up to date and any parts of the plan that do not function should be corrected.
This is a brief outline of the important points to remember when dealing with either the public or the media. If you will be required to do this type of work it is important that you do intensive training on the subject as it can be a minefield for the amature.
The media will be very quick to get the news of an incident. Information goes around the world in minutes especially with the internet.
They will want information and how a management team deals with the media can make a huge difference as to how the world perceives their managment to the response.
So what does the media require, dependent on whether they work for newspapers, radio or television will depend on the type of information and the timing of press releases:
Newspapers Radio Television
Must meet news deadlines Hourly or half hourly reports Information spots are short
Morning papers - previous evening On the spot interviews Interviews - clips
Afternoon papers - mid-morning Frequent updates Interviews - in-depth (in a studio)
Require detailed information: visuals (pictures) Reports are brief Press conferences
Background information. Emphasis on what is happening now
Feature only the most important facts
Include live sounds.
It is quite common now for companies to use their own or release the address of a website where information can be found. The key to this is to make sure it is regularly updated. This may require a sub group within the external relation group.
During the Deepwater Horizon incident there were at least 6 official sites which where updated daily with text, videos and photos.
The information given to the media and the public should only be the facts:
If at sea will it come ashore and where. This is not the place for speculation as in the very near futer you could be in serious trouble. This is the time to emphasise positive points but remember what is positive for you might not be for the public. Always use an understandable language do not use jargon or acronyms as they confuse people who do not work for the industry. Always leave the door open for further information with the website or a telephone number.
Note: during the Sea Empress incident the media team were answering calls for more than 20 hours per day. This means there is a need for a lot of people in this group. The world does not sleep, when you go to bed the other side of the planet are getting up.
If possible open a media centre so they know where to go to get the information and do not cause problems for the response operations;
Have information readily available with photos, diagrams etc, especially if the incident is offshore. Make telephones, e-mail and faxes available and when the oil arrives on the shoreline try to give escorted tours so that you can keep control.
If you are invited for an interview or to speak at a press conference you should only do so if it is one of your responsibilities in the management structure.
One very big point to remember is that only 9% of human communication is done by speaking the other 91% is our body language so you can easily be saying one thing and be showing something completely different.
The key to this is the same as anything, To fail to prepare is to prepare to fail.
Here are a few do's and dont's before you start:
• Be honest and truthful • Don’t be sarcastic
• Stick to your area • Don’t lose your temper
• Prepare your statement • Don’t lie
• Get bad news out first • Don’t be evasive
• Answer the questions, but return to your message • Don’t offer a personal opinion
• Ask the question to be repeated if you don’t understand
• Put the story in context • Don’t give exclusive interviews
• Stick to the facts
• Define the real problem
• Stay calm, cool and clear headed
• Give full story
• Be accessible and understanding
• Communicate information at the earliest time
If asked a question which is not in your field of expertise say so, do not try to explain something you do not know about. Audiences sometimes have people in them who are more knowledgable than you.
Exxon Shipping President Frank J Larossi right at Valdez during the first public press conference said when speaking about dispersant that if I put dispersant into a barrel of oil the oil would disappear which is completely! Wrong.
This was said in front of Riki Ott, Cordova Fishermans United representative who had a master's degree and a PHD in the effects of oil in the water column and sediments. Obviously she put him right.
BP's Tony Hayward made a few gaff's which the Americans objected to.
There is a great difference between British and American humour. During an incident of those propotions humour was not something that was needed.
Be very carefull of who is or might be in the audience, things can go from bad to worse very quickly.
Here are a few statistics for the end of 2011 we humans have never been so well connected:
Twitter 200 million users
Facebook 600 million users
Youtube 48 hours of videos posted every minute, 3 billion views per day
There were 4.6 billion cellphones for a world population of 7 billion people.
Deepwater Horizon became the first oil spill response where social networks became a problem with information, videos and photo being posted not only by locals but also by people within the response team. Copies of these entries and e-mails were added to the paperwork to show the history of the spill response.
In future these sites will be closely monitored and there will be a need to control the response team members.