A historically industrial area, Marshall County, West Virginia is accustomed to the occasional industrial emergency. So, when a gas pipeline exploded in June of 2018, people knew exactly what to do. As first responders handled over 37 calls in 3 minutes, they dispatched resources to the site of the emergency. No fatalities, injuries, or property damage was reported as a result of the emergency and damage was contained to 1,100 feet around the site. This was in part thanks to Marshall County’s oil and gas task force, which brings together emergency management officials, first responders, local schools, and representatives from the oil and gas industry to address potential emergencies. Marshall County’s oil and gas task force and its impact on emergencies highlights the importance of engaging multiple stakeholders via regular communications when it comes to incident response.

Prepared Each Step of the Way

The keystones of an effective disaster communications strategy—mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery—are areas that the oil and gas industry address on a regular basis—whether an emergency is at-hand or operations are as-usual. The Marshall County oil and gas task force is an example of ongoing communications and practices that address potential emergencies. By bringing together diverse stakeholders, the task force exchanges relevant information and builds relationships between oil and gas representatives and emergency responders. They regularly complete exercises that simulate a potential emergency—in-fact having completed one at the pipeline just two days before the explosion. After an incident, the task force meets to discuss how they can improve their response—conversations that help lead to improved response times and reduced fatalities and injuries. These approaches ultimately contribute to a culture of communications in the industry.

Communications is the Backbone of Emergency Response

Organizations in the oil and gas industry with strong emergency response have a culture of communications; it’s a part of all organization plans, decisions, activities and operations. An organization with a culture of communications understands what information needs to be shared with whom and has leadership that is fully invested in communications and endorses open lines of communication among different departments, partners, and other stakeholders. They also have a system in place to communicate quickly and efficiently—protocols for ensuring messaging remains consistent and templates to quickly inform the relevant groups.

Streamlining Communications in the Oil and Gas Industry

Standard forms of emergency communication, like telephone trees, are not always capable of building the culture of communications and connecting stakeholders in the way that the oil and gas industry needs. Fortunately, recent technological advances allow the industry to communicate regularly, efficiently, and securely. Through platforms like Vaporstream the industry can communicate instantly over phones, tablets, laptops, and desktops using secure messages, SMS, and email to ensure that the information reaches the intended recipient. Vaporstream makes it easy for the industry to send out messages to activate response teams by automating critical notifications, eliminating the need for manual messaging and freeing up personnel to focus on other matters while ensuring that everyone stays informed. To learn more about how Vaporstream empowers the oil and gas industry in communications, download our data sheet here.

Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle