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Lesson Learned From the BP Oil Leak?
By William Sturgeon
Published: 07/12/2010

Oil rig 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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