Opinion: Does the industry need a robust emergency response strategy?

Many facilities assume that emergency response applies only to the plant itself, but damage can be much more widespread

Nader Henein is the regional director of Advanced Security Solutions – Advisory Division, BlackBerry.
Nader Henein is the regional director of Advanced Security Solutions – Advisory Division, BlackBerry.

The oil and gas industry is one of the key drivers of growth in the Middle East. And with success comes great responsibility. 

Oil, gas and chemical plants present plant managers, supervisors, and health and safety directors with a daunting set of challenges. On one hand, it’s essential for them to be able to maximise production and efficiency. On the other hand, however, uncompromised safety must be maintained. 

Incidents such as oil spills can quickly become massive environmental disasters and damage the very foundation of an organisation. In such a situation, it is necessary to account for all personnel, as well as to mitigate any damage, and get the facility back to full production as quickly as possible. 

Crisis communication software, such as BlackBerry AtHoc, can help organisations to minimise the impact of emergency situations. A reliable, rapid, and accurate crisis communications strategy can play a crucial role in minimising injuries and swiftly restoring production.

Industrial plants built for the oil and gas industries are large, intricate facilities where a large number of employees, contractors, visitors, and others all work in close coordination, surrounded by very precise machinery that uses huge amounts of volatile substances. Any disturbance immediately affects the safety of the personnel and reduces production. 

As a result, crisis communication in these facilities is just as complex as in the physical plants themselves. Leveraging a crisis communication platform that can trigger automated notifications from inputs such as fire alarms or building sprinkler systems, and provide a targeted, rapid, and coordinated response to an emergency situation, is vital for operators in order to keep their employees and assets secure. 

Many industrial facilities assume that emergency response applies only to the plant itself. However, given the volatile nature of the materials used in the oil and gas industry, the damage can extend far beyond the boundaries of the plant.

 Areas surrounding a facility that might be affected by an explosion, gas leak, contaminated water supply, or other such calamity – whether it is natural or manmade – need sufficient warning to be able to initiate their own crisis communications response in a timely manner. In such a scenario, outside responders are unlikely to be able to send assistance rapidly if they have not been notified well in advance. 

Creating secure connections between  organisations allows for updates to get to other nearby organisations and personnel in the event that information needs to be relayed beyond the immediately affected facility. To be fully equipped to manage any unforeseen risks, there is a need to streamline the planning process before an incident. This makes it possible for first-responders to know precisely what needs to be done during the emergency itself. 

An initiative that recognised the importance of creating a digital safety and training standard to undertake safety-critical emergency response training was announced at the Opito Safety and Competence Conference (OSCC) held in 2016, which supports the industry in building a sustainable, competent, and safe oil and gas workforce. This reinforces the growing realisation of the need for emergency response worldwide.

Widely acknowledged as being the best in the world, OPITO standards have been adopted by major international and national oil and gas companies in 45 countries. More than 250,000 people every year train to OPITO standards around the globe.

Worldwide, enterprise solutions software companies are looking to develop smarter emergency response solutions that cater specifically to various sectors, from government to healthcare and oil and gas. In this regard, the BlackBerry AtHoc solution enables organisations to communicate with their people via various devices, and empowers them to create their own permission-based network in order to establish interoperable communication with other organisations within their community.

In any emergency, being able to quickly and efficiently exchange life-saving information is a priority, and the BlackBerry AtHoc solution ensures this exchange is immediate and reliable by alerting anyone, anywhere, on any device, while at the same time collecting critical information from numerous sources in order to achieve situational awareness. Furthermore, the solution is able to provide real-time visibility into personnel safety and status and, in doing so, it also communicates and collaborates with other organisations.

At a time when the oil and gas industry is increasingly facing both internal and external risks, it is imperative for the sector to protect its people by adopting a forward-thinking approach to crisis communications and emergency response.


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Oil & Gas Middle East - September 2020

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