Emergency Planning and Response
From the earliest stages of planning to the end of oil and natural gas production, offshore operators take great precaution to prevent emergencies. Before any activity is undertaken, operators identify and analyze potential risks to people and the environment. Procedures are put in place to reduce or eliminate identified risks, and workers are trained to recognize and respond to potential emergencies. Redundancies are built into offshore operations with the goal of preventing incidents.
Although the focus is on accident prevention, operators must also be prepared to respond effectively in an emergency.
Companies are required by law to have comprehensive emergency response plans and procedures in place before the relevant Offshore Petroleum Board approves their activities.
An emergency response plan is a detailed plan that guides the actions of workers and contractors if an emergency occurs. Such plans give workers the training to make the right decisions and take the right actions when they have to react to an emergency. These plans also identify sources of extra support, specialized expertise and resources that may be called upon if required, and outline approaches for proper notification of government agencies, regulators and other stakeholders, i.e. the fishing industry, if required. Emergency response plans are designed to first protect people and the environment, and then to minimize damage to equipment and facilities. The plans cover an exhaustive list of potential situations, including:
- Fatalities, serious injuries and medical emergencies;
- Missing persons;
- Diving emergencies;
- Loss of control of a well;
- Fires and explosions;
- Oil or hazardous material spills;
- Damage to offshore infrastructure, support vessels and aircraft;
- Vessel collisions;
- Presence of heavy sea ice or icebergs;
- Extreme weather, including icing; and
- Helicopter incidents.
Emergency response plans are revised regularly as technology advances and new research becomes available.
How does the industry train for potential emergencies?
The industry views training as a critical component of emergency preparedness and response planning. In addition to completing mandatory safety training courses, all employees are required to be familiar with emergency response procedures, which are practiced regularly through drills and exercises at offshore facilities.
Every individual travelling by helicopter or support vessel receives a safety briefing prior to any transfer to remind them of the proper use of emergency response equipment and associated procedures.
Operators are also required to designate emergency action teams, consisting of specially trained and qualified personnel, to respond quickly and effectively to a variety of offshore emergency situations. Each person assigned to an emergency action team receives initial training and participates in refresher training and onboard emergency drills and exercises to keep skills and training up-to-date.
Emergency action teams include:
- Fast Rescue Craft Teams;
- Fire Teams;
- First Aid Teams;
- Medevac Teams;
- Rescue Craft Teams; and
- Survival Craft Teams.