Oil platform disaster highlights some key lessons

April 22, 2010

The Deepwater Horizon oil platform 41 miles off the coast of New Orleans in the gulf is a disaster of major proportions. It’s looking increasingly like 11 men have lost their lives–the search goes on as I write this. But crude from the deep well is apparently continuing to gush from the incredibly deep well. Indeed, this half a billion dollar platform was one of the most technologically advanced in the world, digging farther off shore and deeper than almost any other.

This is an event that affects far more than the two oil companies involved. (Full disclosure, both PIER and O’Brien’s, our new parent company, are both actively involved in the response). This event will likely significantly impact every oil company with drilling and exploration operations and it may impact the nation’s increased willingness to drill for oil offshore to increase energy independence. Questions will arise about safety, about environmental risks, about response capabilities. They will focus around the critical issues of what could have been done better to save lives and the environment.

Just like other major events like this, there is a tendency for those on the sidelines to stare in wonder at the spectacle. Instead, those who are even peripherally related to this event need to go into action mode now. When the horrible shooting occurred at Virginia Tech, the local airwaves and national media were filled with stories about the lack of capability of our nation’s education administrators to protect those under their care with better warning systems. Every university president had to face questions from parents, from local media, from students and faculty about what was in place to notify students and if the answer was nothing, then why?

A crisis like the oil platform disaster operates like throwing a stone into a quiet pond. The closer you are to the stone hitting, the more disturbed the water. But ultimately it affects everyone in the pond.


One Response to “Oil platform disaster highlights some key lessons”

  1. You are correct that this event will be and already is huge. In 1989 the Exxon Valdez accident created several new laws and even today impacts the Alaskan coast line.
    The question becomes what will the federal government’s reaction be in light of the recent Obama Adminstration announcement allowing exploration of previously off-limits offshore leasing areas. There should be no relationship but that probably would require the MSM to show unusual insightfulness. This will dominate the next two months environmental newsfront world wide and knock climate change off the front pages. A classic example of a crisis in which communications lessons will be learned this is an event hoping you post often about.

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