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Resilience and Restoration in Environmental Emergencies

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ASPA as an organization.

By Horace Blake
September 25, 2015

The oil and natural gas industry is prone to environmental disasters and loss of life. Extracting oil and gas involves working with highly pressurized and flammable substances, a process that can easily go out of control. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as the oil and natural gas industry continues to see unprecedented growth, the reports of extraction deaths are seeing its highest spike since the government began compiling data in 2003.

The rise in emergency and death situations is not necessarily the norm. However, as the need for more laborers increases, the pool of experienced workers has shrunk. The industry must resort to available yet inexperienced workers to fill open positions. This creates an industry flashpoint between critics and industry professionals as deaths have increased by 28 percent.

The introduction of the new technology, hydraulic fracking, has also elevated the problem. Employers, in an effort to have a full working crew, are hiring workers without doing thorough background checks. Fatigue ultimately sets in which is the recipe for impending missteps and emergencies.

Being aware of what we do

UntitledThe federal government heavily regulates the oil and gas industry and imposes strict rules in how to disperse information to the public during an event. The industry preparedness and response strategy is focused on the local level as there is usually myriad gas and crude oil lines cress crossing the local landscape. This preparedness is as follows:

  • Resilience and restoration are affected at the local level before, during and after any major disruptive oil or natural gas event.
  • Adherence to proactive steps to prepare themselves and their partners.
  • Understand the potential impact on infrastructure and the complexities of response before an event.
  • Ensure the education of key partners in terms of their roles and responsibilities in an emergency scenario.
  • Understand that each event is different and that the guidelines are established to help key players.
  • Develop relationships with appropriate individuals during nonemergency events.
  • Understand the responsibility to predetermine how and what information about the event will be publicly available.

Creating a checklist for survival

In terms of emergency preparedness, the focus is often on what to do during an event. However, there needs to more effort placed on “what next” and how to get everyone beyond the state of emergency. According to Horace Blake in, “Exemplary Emergency Management: Preparedness and Recovery,” the primary goal of emergency management operates on the premise of mitigation, activities that prevent or reduce the damaging effects of a disaster. Preparedness, which includes plans for preparations, works to save lives in terms of search and rescue. Further action is geared toward preventing property damage in any of these disaster occurrences. Recovery is extremely important as a factor to return to a normal or a safe environment.

The most important items to have on a survival checklist should be:

  • A fresh water resource for a variety of activities, whether based on medical needs or for consumption.
  • Prepared  foods, such as canned meats, fruits, vegetables, soups and high energy foods like peanut butter, granola, crackers and other foods that do not require refrigeration.
  • Food items for the most vulnerable such a baby food, formulas and vitamins.
  • Pets and animal foods should be considered wherever possible as there might be limitations as to get access to foods for pets and livestock.
  • First aid kits are necessary for medical care in monitoring the ill or those who are already utilizing certain medical care.
  • Tools and supplies that do not need centralized power source, such as hammers, pliers and screwdrivers, should be on-hand as emergencies often limit the availability of electrical power.
  • A secure storage box to store important and irreplaceable documents.

Summary

For many emergencies, so much goes into the implementation of preparedness plans. The plans help communities rebound, becoming more resilient and providing a sense of normalcy. However, there are no real guarantees about the outcomes of any disaster. For this reason, all local communities must include mock trials of their emergency preparedness plans. Doing so will prevent any delay of action when a real crisis arises.


Author: Horace A. Blake has been involved in public service for more than 25 years. He currently serves on the city’s storm water management committee and previously served for three terms as co-chair HOA Commissioner and on the City Charter Committee. Horace is certified by The Red Cross as an Instructor of First Aid/CPR/ AED.

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