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!


r.e.wolf said...

And here I sat, ready to bolt over to in case they carried video of your press conference. No doubt, that makes me evil.

Bet this all made for a mighty long day!

kenju said...

At least you have drills! You could teach New Orleans a thing or two, couldn't you? It pays to be prepared!

Valkyrie said...

Wow! I got the fright of my life! I was just about to Google 'plant spill in Southern Texas' to see what happened!

Duke_of_Earle said...

Sorry to have "fooled" anyone. I thought the post title would make it clear, and the picture of the electric drill was just for pun value, but...

Yes, we "practice" various emergency situations all the time. So much, in fact, that employees complain that we spend so much time preparing for disaster that we barely have enough time and resources left to make our product.

But we have no choice. From both a moral point of view (it's the right thing to do!) and a legal one (several governmental regulatory agencies require written emergency and security plans and regular practice exercising those plans -- and they come to monitor our drills), it's all just part of our job as "corporate citizens."

That's why it galls me that corporations are always portrayed in books and movies (and therefore assumed by many people to all be tarred with that same brush) as greedy, rapacious polluters and exploiters.

Yeah, some are. But in my experience, most aren't. Hey, I live in this community too!


Scruffybutt said...

Alligators?! Lemme at 'em!

robotJAM said...

This reminds me of a story my sister told me when she was an air hostess and they had a new crewmember on board. Apparently there's a code they use for "crash landing" and the pilot gave it out on the radio but the new person hadn;t bee told it was a drill. My sister said it was hilarious !