After pats on the back for BP – oil is still gushing
NEW ORLEANS – “This never happened before” has been the mantra for early failures in response to the Gulf oil spill.
This was the same explanation used for what later turned out to be inadequacies in response to Hurricane Katrina.
Following Katrina in late August 2005 government officials congratulated one another on a job well done. Following the oil rig explosion, Coast Guard Admiral Mary Landry praised the initial responses of British Petroleum. In Katrina and in the Gulf oil spill, government officials observed how this type of disaster had never happened before.
Mark Schleifstein of the Times Picayune said on public radio on May 11 he believes there are parallels in how agencies responded to both Hurricane Katrina and the Gulf oil spill. He said early responses to both disasters were explained as faulty because neither had been experienced before and therefore no plans made for them.
In disaster planning this is called residual risk, something the Environmental Protection Agency maintains organizations should include in planning when attempting anything that could impact negatively on the environment.
Scientists define residual risk as the remaining risk which cannot be defined in more detail after elimination or inclusion of all conceivable quantified risks in a risk consideration.
In short in anticipation of a potential disaster, one looks at the ultimate consequences of a problem and any remaining risk after all other issues have been examined, therefore covering all the “what ifs.”
As the oil continues to seep into the ocean from the oil rig explosion of April 20 and spreads toward the Gulf coast shoreline, New Orleans residents and those along the Gulf Coast speak of their need for preparedness and their worries about the impact of oil in an impending disaster that has been described as potentially devastating.
Early conversations with the press more than two weeks ago found Admiral Landry praising the efforts of British Petroleum, describing them and those of the government as “forward looking.” BP declared it “tries to develop new options and receives every offer of support.” Landry emphasized early on how people were “working around the clock” to find a solution.
Landry described BP at a press conference on May 6 as doing “great work in the community,” referring to the inclusion and response of volunteers.
Doug Suttles, the ongoing spokesperson for BP throughout most of the press conferences, explained on May 8, how difficult it is to find a solution since this deep water oil spill is something that hasn’t happened before.
After Suttles had underlined the fact the company was trying every resource and technique available and asking for help around the world, Landry went on to say, when asked whether there might be a change with reference to the Oil Pollution Act of 1990, “there is no projected legislation. We are focused on the large response from the people, which is a testament to the Act and maritime community. We still have a long way to go.”
Following Hurricane Katrina Homeland Security Michael Chertoff said,
“That ‘perfect storm’ of a combination of catastrophes exceeded the foresight of the planners, and maybe anybody’s foresight.”
He called the disaster “breathtaking in its surprise” in his remarks on CNN.
Suttles was asked by a reporter on May 10 “Why wasn’t this accident anticipated and are you making this up as you go along.”
BP responded, “Our investigation shows things show up. This is the first time we have had an incident of this sort.”
He went on to talk about how theory is one thing, and fact is another.
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