Changing technologies, environmental regulations, and information sources are complicating the way that oil and gas professionals communicate. In case of an emergency, communications tend to break down. That’s why it’s important to have a robust crisis communications framework in place.
Crisis communications go beyond one breach. A carefully formed and tested plan can mitigate the impact of a disaster across all parts of your business. The impact of failure to communicate in a crisis can reverberate in ways far greater than immediately seen. Here are some examples:
First Responder Delays – If there is a leak or a fire, every minute is critical. Who is responsible for contacting the first responders? How will you know that they have been called, if your facility is large and populated by many employees? You don’t want to make the mistake of thinking that someone else has called emergency responders if they haven’t. Equally, you don’t want to make several redundant contact attempts, which block up lines and provide contradictory information to first responders.
Community Outreach – Internal communication is one thing, but if a large-scale evacuation is occurring, you need to contact key figureheads in the community too. The effects may spread to them too, and you need to ensure that they are taking adequate safety precautions, or evacuating if necessary. Where does this information come from, and how can you ensure that a uniform, succinct message is being sent to the community? The best integrated solutions for the commercial and industrial sectors can guarantee that your communications reach critical organizations in your community.
Personnel Accountability – You need to have headcount of who is onsite and who is not in the event of an emergency. Systems like AtHoc Account can enable real-time visibility into personnel location and status for effective crisis management. You need a system that empowers decision-makers to immediately understand employee safety. Even when your personnel are dispersed across several sites and geographies, this understanding is vital.
Evacuations – When a disaster occurs, who should evacuate? Maybe it’s only part of your site, or maybe it goes beyond an isolated group. You need to enable both your team and your organization at large to have a secure, permission-based crisis communications environment so that evacuation procedures are always clear, and the scope of a threat is understood as quickly as possible.
Unanswered Communications – Sending out an alert is only half the battle. You need to know if it was received. Your communications need to go two ways. If your usual modes of communication break down, you need a backup plan to understand how your message will be delivered. You don’t want to be headed into a crisis with unanswered questions about how to move forward.
Breakdown in Chain of Command – In times of crisis, people tend to panic. Chains of command can break down, especially if team structures and responsibilities are informal. Often, teams collect data manually, and user information is practically impossible to update and keep current across an organization.
To make sure none of these delays happen to you, ensure that you’re using BlackBerry AtHoc. BlackBerry AtHoc is a comprehensive, integrated suite that unifies and simplifies crisis communications both inside and outside of an organization. Leaders can make informed decisions to protect their people and resources.
A Crisis Communications Checklist
Here is one foundational checklist that you can use for thinking about crisis communications. Use it as a jumping off point, and customize it for the specifics of your site. You may need to think about many details, including but not limited to: stairwells and openings, power tools and machinery, scaffolding, ladders, barricading, excavation, hazardous chemicals, toxic waste and fire prevention. Every facility is unique, as is every region. You should get input from team members and other oil and gas professionals to cover all your bases.
- Are crisis communications systems in place if any of the following emergencies occur:
- Leak or Spill
- Extreme Weather
- Bomb Threat
- Have responsibilities been delegated in advance to qualified personnel to manage operations in the case of any of the above emergencies?
- How will you evacuate personnel from all work sites across all geographies in the event of emergency?
- How do you understand immediately who is on-site and who is not in the event of an emergency?
- Have all evacuation routes been designated for all work areas? Can they be accessed in case of smoke or darkness?
- Where are emergency plans and communications currently posted, both online and offline?
- Have all personnel been trained on general evacuation and communication procedures?
- Which personnel have been trained in the following areas:
- Do procedures exist to alert both all personnel or a select group of personnel to the emergency?
- Do all doors open to adequately facilitate the exit of personnel in case of emergency?
- Which procedures exist to avoid obstruction to critical equipment and evacuation routes in case of an emergency?
- What emergency equipment is needed in the case of all of the above emergencies, and is it operational and available at all sites?
- Which warning systems are currently installed?
- How often are they tested?
- Are all personnel familiar with the meanings of the alarms and the required actions needed from each alarm?
- Where are emergency contacts posted, both online and off, for the following:
- Fire Department
- Hospital Emergency Room
- Law Enforcement
- Community Point of Contact
- Other Oil and Gas Facilities in the Area
- What fire detection system is in place?
- How many fire extinguishers are there, and are they suitable for any type of fire that can occur? How are they accessed?
- Is firefighting equipment located near all flammable or hazardous materials or areas?