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OpEdNews Op Eds    H3'ed 6/22/10

Problems with BP Oil Spill Response Plan Outsourcing

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Message Elaine Cullen

In a news report that the Associated Press recently published on their investigation of the BP 2009 Spill Response Plan, they noted that in many particulars the BP plan was severely flawed. Some problems that the AP analysis found with the plans were that BP's proposed method to calculate spill volume produced 100 times lower spill-volume estimates than the internationally accepted formula. Some of the experts mentioned as those who should be contacted for their expertise in handling the effects of oil spills had not been in the contact positions listed for years. The Gulf's loop current, which is projected to shift oil hundreds of miles around Florida's tip and along the Atlantic Coast, wasn't considered. These are just a few of the flaws that the Associated Press found with the BP 2009 Spill Response Plan for the BP Deepwater well.

Although in the Associated Press report it notes that this is BP's Oil Spill Response Plan, the 2009 BP Oil Spill Response Plan used after the BP explosion and oil spill was outsourced from BP and done by The Response Group, a company that does emergency response pre-planning and support. The large number of problems found with The Response Group's BP Oil Spill Response Plan, is indicative of the problems that are being seen with the outsourcing of Emergency Response Planning.

The Response Group is only one company that does this type of emergency response planning. It's a booming business and most oil companies outsource their emergency response planning. Emergency response plans for offshore oil wells have to be updated yearly. Under the company vision statement, The Response Group states that it "is dedicated to becoming the premier emergency response consulting and mapping company in the United States."

Although The Response Group wrote the emergency preparedness response plan for BP and are responsible for what is in the plan that outlines, in a step by step formula, what should be the response to an oil spill, there is no information as to how the BP emergency response plan was developed and what qualifications The Response Group had for developing the BP emergency oil spill plan. Nor has there been any questioning of The Response Group itself for the inadequate and severely flawed emergency preparedness plans they created in case of a problem with a BP facility and consequent oil spill. The Response Group has issued no public statement and explained none of the problems with their emergency plans for BP. They haven't responded to requests for information about how their emergency plans for BP were developed.

If BP had developed their own emergency preparedness plan, it would have required BP to have the background information and sources that they would need in order to assure that everything was correct and known to BP and available to BP if the need arose for the plan to be implemented in case of an emergency.

Corporations such as BP are not the only ones who are outsourcing emergency preparedness planning. This also happened in the case of the emergency response plan that had been prepared for the U.S. government in case of a hurricane affecting New Orleans and southeast Louisiana.

The hurricane emergency response planning for Southeast Louisiana was contracted out by FEMA to the private company, Innovative Emergency Management (IEM) which developed a "Catastrophic Hurricane Disaster Plan for New Orleans and Southeast Louisiana". The 2004 plan which was titled "Hurricane Pam" involved preparing for a hurricane that was, as acknowledged by the IEM President and CEO of IEM, Madhu Beriwal, "eerily similar" to Hurricane Katrina.

The emergency response plan IEM created was followed after Hurricane Katrina struck. The Hurricane Pam plan that IEM drew up was severely flawed. It considered only one scenario that might occur with a hurricane and allowed for fully inadequate planning of evacuations, emergency response, emergency preparedness and what procedures to follow in case of a hurricane. The Hurricane Pam plan drawn up by IEM called for hurricane emergency centers to be sited in the New Orleans Superdome and Convention Center, instead of evacuation of the entire city. It set guidelines as to who to call, when and how many emergency supplies to have on hand, all of this was woefully inadequate. The hurricane emergency response planning for New Orleans was not drawn up by the emergency responders in the city, parish, state and national governments, who would actually be doing the emergency responding. At the time that Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast, the IEM hurricane preparedness plan was the only one available for use. In testimony before Congress about Hurricane Katrina afterwords, one of the responders noted that there were only a few copies of the plan around and they had to scramble to find it.

In an interview after Hurricane Katrina, IEM CEO and President, Madhi Beriwal when asked who was to blame for the emergency response, said "we all share the blame". However, little attention was given to IEM as one of the primary sources of the problems with the emergency response to Hurricane Katrina and the evidence that the outsourcing of emergency response from the national and local governments to private companies, was a critical factor in the problems with the response after the emergency, just as currently appears to be the case with the emergency response to the BP oil spill.

The problems that can occur with contracting out emergency response functions was also seen with Hurricane Katrina with the provision of emergency transportation and provisions. In testimony before Congress, Homeland Security chief, Michael Chertoff was asked about pictures of buses that were sitting outside New Orleans waiting to transport people from the Superdome and Convention Center. Chertoff said that he had seen a plan about the buses. He said that there had been a contractor involved. When asked who was the contractor, he answered that he didn't know. When asked who paid for the contractor, Chertoff responded that he didn't know.

In an interview after Hurricane Katrina, a National Guard member stationed in New Orleans during the hurricane said that the water that was waiting to be delivered into New Orleans, was not being delivered by FEMA or the Red Cross, but by a private contractor.

The problems with the outsourcing of governmental response functions to private companies, and nongovernmental organizations, didn't end with the immediate emergency response following Hurricane Katrina.

The reconstruction efforts in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast were primarily outsourced from the government, to predominantly non-governmental organizations, often faith based ones, with disastrous effect.

In a congressional hearing, Homeland Security head, Chertoff was questioned about the post Hurricane Katrina reconstruction efforts by Representative Cynthia McKinney, D - Georgia, who asked why when she pulled up the FEMA website she saw the organization "Operation Blessing" listed there.

Chertoff said that a "pivotal part of the response was from faith-based organizations, and that these faith based organizations should be reimbursed if reimburseable."

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Elaine Cullen Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

My interests are in international politics and economics.I have a journalism degree and post graduate study in economics. I have worked in the automobile and airline industry.
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