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Home > Uncategorized > Lesson Learned From the BP Oil Leak?

Lesson Learned From the BP Oil Leak?

June 21st, 2010

First my thoughts and prayers go out to the people of Louisiana and the entire Gulf Coast. Throughout my career I have made many friends in that area. It is my sincere desire that they can develop a method for capping the leak.

What have we in the field criminal justice learned from the BP oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico? I believe that there are several lessons that can be translated from this horrible misfortune to the fields of criminal justice, private security, and emergency planning and management.

Lessons Learned

  • 1. Insure that the Emergency/Contingency Plans have been developed for your specific agency, company, and operations. During some of the Congressional Hearings it came out that all of the oil companies were using the same exact Emergency/Contingency Plans. As one Congressman put it they were “cookie cutter” plans.

This reminds me of a similar situation I experienced. I was conducting a security audit of a facility and when I reviewed the Emergency/Contingency Plans I had the head of security with me. As I read the plans I was very impressed with how detailed and well written they were. As I questioned the head of security about specific things in the plan, he would respond either the he did not know about that plan or that this facility did not have the capability detailed in the plan. For instance: I inquired about where the Special Response Team received their initial training and he responded that the facility did not have a Special Response Team. Yet throughout the Emergency/Contingency Plans the SRT had a central role in the management of any incidents. When I questioned if there was not an SRT then why was it so prominent throughout his plans, it was then that he told me  they had copied another agency’s Emergency/Contingency Plans. So my friends, it does happen - do not fall into this trap - it will come back to bite you, I promise.  

•2.      Identify an incident commander as soon as it has been established that, in fact, there is an incident. The Incident Commander is in full charge of managing the incident (regardless of rank until ‘properly’ relieved). The initial Incident Commander has a crucial role because many incidents, if managed properly at the onset, can be resolved quickly.


•3.      Commit the necessary human resources , equipment and materials, while remembering that there could be another incident at any moment. Always hold some resources back in the event that there is another incident.

Have a comprehensive understanding of the numbers and nature of the resources available to the Incident Commander “Prior To” any incident taking place. All resources must be determined, identified and updated quarterly in the Emergency /Contingency Plans.

In the case of the BP oil leak, it was determined that many of the telephone numbers were either no longer working or wrong. Additionally, the names of titles of the people identified in the emergency plan were incorrect.

•4.      Insure that the Emergency/Contingency Plans address as many contingencies as possible. What I have found over the years is that Emergency/Contingency Plans lacked imagination. Even if they were tailored to a specific agency, city, facility, they addressed the traditional issues.  Thinking outside of the “box” should be the norm today, not the exception.


•5.      Plan/Implement/Practice/ / Make Take Corrective Actions - Then  - Plan/Implement/Practice/ Evaluate/  Make Corrective Actions , etc., etc. This should be a never ending initiative to insure that your Emergency / Contingency Plans are “OPPERATIONALLY REALISTIC.”

I have written about these lessons in one form or another for many years. The BP oil leak, while an awful tragedy for the people of the Gulf States, should be a wake-up call for everyone concerned with Emergency/Contingency Planning and Management.

The world becomes a more difficult and dangerous place to live every day. The Emergency/Contingency Plans that, in the past, were used to pass the various states and trade industry standards will no longer do. Today’s Emergency Plans / Contingency Plans must be “Operationally Realistic”.

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billsturgeon Uncategorized

  1. June 22nd, 2010 at 11:54 | #1

    Bill, as usual, you’re right on point. In a field such as corrections, emergency plans are critical to survival as well as successful operations. We should regularly review our emergency plans with staff and update at least annually to ensure that the information is still current and relevant. This is the only way to ensure everyone’s safety. We are truly living in a dangerous world and have to be ready to act quickly and decisively in an emergency. Emergency plans are needed everywhere, even in our homes. Let us all learn lessons from BP oil because if we don’t, we’ll surely repeat them.
    Deloris Glymph/SCDOC

  2. bonnie Bresnahan
    June 22nd, 2010 at 23:52 | #2

    i agree with the old man, but I have a hard time calling bill the old man. My expeience is in crisis manuals and procedures for schools. Plans need to be real, they need to be understood by all stakeholders and practiced with regularity. We had a hostage situation near two downtown schools and did not dismiss on a Friday afternoon. Students and staff were all set with the plan, however parents were not on board and in some cases were quite disruptive with administration and state police. This proves that practice and community familiarity make a lot of sense in order to avoid chaos in a crisis.

  3. Susan Moore
    June 23rd, 2010 at 13:12 | #3

    There is not a single agency or business that can’t learn from this. Safety plans are not taken seriously enough…till you need them

  4. Bob Greifinger
    June 23rd, 2010 at 16:31 | #4

    Bill’s wisdom is timely. This wisdom is also generalizable to public health emergencies, for example airborne infections like TB, influenza, and measles. For more detail on managing outbreaks of communicable disease, see: Parvez FM, Lobato MN, Greifinger RB. Tuberculosis Control: Lessons for Outbreak Preparedness in Correctional Facilities. Journal of Correctional Health Care OnlineFirst, published on May 12, 2010 as doi:10.1177/1078345810367593.

  5. June 28th, 2010 at 20:25 | #5

    Dr. Bob”
    You are 100% correct. Jails and prisons are living petri dishes for diseases and/or a public health emergencies. I believe that staff will report to quell a riot without question - But a contagious disease I believe will cause staff to hesitate reporting for duty. I do not believe that emergency planners are taking this lack of staffing into consideration. Have a great summer.

  6. June 28th, 2010 at 20:27 | #6

    Thanks Susan:
    Unfortunately, I think that you are right! Emergency plans are not taken seriously.
    Have a great summer. With any luck we’ll be in Texas in the fall.

  7. June 28th, 2010 at 20:28 | #7

    Oh, but I am the “Old Man” now. But I cut the rug at the wedding.
    Thanks for responding. Bill

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