Incident Response in the Oil and Natural Gas Industry: It’s All About Communications
After Hurricane Sandy in 2012, the Department of Energy (DoE) asked the National Petroleum Council (NPC) to provide specific actionable steps to better prepare the oil and natural gas industry’s response to natural disasters. In response, the NPC released “Enhancing Emergency Preparedness for Natural Disasters” in 2014, which included a series of recommendations for emergency preparedness, response and recovery in the oil and natural gas industry. A key finding? That effective communications during emergency response is a major challenge for the industry and that a standardized, rehearsed approach toward communications that addresses escalated and expanding responses as an event unfolds is critical.
Three years later, in 2017, hurricane Harvey hit the United States, impacting the oil and natural gas industry significantly. The storm shutdown 22% of the nation’s refining capacity and 25% of oil production in the Gulf of Mexico while fuel shortages hit Houston, Austin, and Dallas. In interviews with executives from companies impacted by Harvey, they emphasized the importance of communications once again – however in a more positive light. The success of response plans was directly connected to the strength of the communication systems put in place and used to implement them. During Harvey, a variety of platforms were used to communicate plans, including emails, phone trees, daily summary text messages, call-in numbers, text blasts and emergency alerts. One CEO mentioned leveraging text to contact crisis managers as a way to keep them informed without disrupting them.
What these responses to natural disasters show us is that communication lies at the heart of successful incident response for the oil and natural gas industry. The industry faces a variety of risks from natural disasters, to fires and explosions, oil or hazardous material spills, or vessel collisions—just to name a few. Having a strong response plan that is successfully implemented through strong communications to rapidly notify first responders, response teams, EMOs and regulators – and then coordinate response mitigates these risks.
In the oil and gas industry, strong communications are standardized communications. API points out in their Oil and Natural Gas Industry Preparedness Handbook that without robust formalized communications processes and procedures, information sharing becomes dependent on personal relationships. This is extremely risky as there is no guarantee that the individuals sharing that rapport will readily be available during an incident. Standardized and even automated processes ensure that the correct stakeholders will share effective information during an event and establishes mechanisms to keep information flow clear—eliminating situations where information is requested from multiple parties.
Outdated technologies—like phone trees, emails, fax—simply don’t cut it when trying to standardize or automate communications. These technologies frequently lack the ability to ensure receipt and confirm acknowledgement, and depend on manual labor while other critical tasks need attention. For communications to occur efficiently and for information to be streamlined, the oil and natural gas industry needs to turn to modern technologies that empower them to standardize and automate communications. Vaporstream does just that.
With Vaporstream, the industry can automate critical notifications and simultaneously send them through secure private message, SMS and email, and have them reach phones, tablets, and desktops instantaneously. This ensures that the relevant information reaches the right person over their preferred communication method and device. It eliminates the need for manual messaging, freeing up personnel to focus on important matters while ensuring everyone stays informed. Vaporstream also offers audio and visual alerts to express message urgency and ensures delivery and real-time read receipts for acknowledgement.
Vaporstream works to enable industries like the oil and natural gas industry to streamline and secure their communications while sharing critical information. To learn more about how Vaporstream can help the oil and natural gas industry standardize their communications download our data sheet today.
Contributor: Kristi Perdue Hinkle