Monday, June 14, 2010

Gulf Coast Oil Catastrophe: A Crisis of Leadership

There will be thousands of stories covering the Gulf Coast Oil Spill from countless vantage points well into the future. Yet, the essence of any coverage of this catastrophe from a leadership / management perspective, if it is to have any authenticity whatsoever, must have incompetence, apathy and egregious negligence as its foundation.

Since the entire nation is greatly concerned over this calamity, there will be many viewpoints. Allow this one to be through an analysis of the very basic principles of crisis management and emergency preparedness.

In a June 9 published report titled BP contingency plan for dealing with oil spill was riddled with errors, the following is included:

  • Naming a long deceased scientist as a recommended expert on wildlife contamination
  • Regarding oil spills specifically in the gulf, the document lists walruses, sea otters, sea lions and seals as potential victims. None of these are found in the gulf
  • Even if the leak were 10 times worse than now, the plan states oil would not reach the shore. Contamination has already greatly impacted Louisiana marshlands and tar balls have appeared as far away as Florida beaches
  • The plan lists a firm called Marine Spill Response Corp as a group able to supply equipment but the website for this company leads to a defunct Japanese language web page
  • BP maintains in the document that it can coordinate vessels to pick up 20m gallons of oil from the water each day-a highly exaggerated statistic
  • Bob Lutz is named as a wildlife expert listed at the University of Miami but the Associated Press states he has not been there for over 20 years and died four years before the plan was approved

In a previous security position in which I managed over 400 security personnel at sites including CNBC, Citigroup, The Federal Reserve Bank of New York, Saint Peter's College, The Daily News and JP Morgan Chase, post orders documented detailed contingency plans for dealing with potential emergencies. There was also emergency contact information which included every possible contact number for key personnel. These documents were paramount to protecting the clients and were always meticulously maintained, updated and revised. This information, for each and every account at every site, was maintained and signed off on collaboratively by key company management and available round the clock. The post orders were also maintained at the various posts at each site. This was essential to protect people, property and information at all customer locations and to maintain the integrity and dignity of the security profession.

It is therefore immensely disheartening to observe such overt deficiencies with BP documents. This information immediately eradicates any possible level of competence, professionalism and integrity since the very basic principles of crisis management and emergency preparedness were violated.

Lives have been lost with this tragedy and livelihoods, wildlife, coastlands and communities are being destroyed with no end in sight. All those with responsibilities in the disciplines of crisis management and emergency preparedness must heed well that competence, professionalism and vigilance must always be the order of the day.


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