Wednesday, July 19, 2006
This is a Drill, This is a Drill!
Today at work we had a spill of 3,000 barrels of naphtha into a canal that is part of the inland waterways system.
A tankerman fell off the barge that was receiving the product and was missing for over an hour. We feared the worst. Aggravating that situation was the sighting of an alligator on the bank of the canal. (Yes we actually have wild alligators in South Texas.)
The Coast Guard and other regulatory agencies showed up. All normal plant operations shut down while we searched for the missing man, stopped the flow of product into the water, contained what was there and began the recovery operations.
Clean-up will take days, if not weeks, and will likely cost our insurance company millions of dollars.
Oh, the missing tankerman was spotted by a passing tug boat. He had made it to the canal bank but was unable to climb up the steep muddy walls and had to be rescued by the local fire department, whose personnel rappelled down to him.
Meanwhile we planned and strategized like crazy, notified just about every governmental agency (local, state and federal) you can imagine, set up a claims hotline, ordered in lots of supplies and help for the clean-up, and generally ran around like the proverbial headless chickens.
I had to deal with irate local citizens who wanted huge compensation for some oil spots on their pleasure boats, and the fact that the exposure will almost certainly (in their opinion) cause all of them to die from cancer in a few years. One of them claimed his cows were all acting sick, although they were upwind of the spill. Then I got to hold a press conference and explain how we had managed to destroy the local ecology, and possibly the local economy as well.
Yes, it was just a drill. No, none of it really happened. But we learned a lot from it.
Most of all we learned that we NEVER, EVER want it to happen for real!