Seminar Success at BCI World 2018

Posted on 13 November

Last week, our Principal Consultant Ewan Donald hosted one of the first Exhibition Seminars at BCI World 2018. Over 50 people attended his session, 'Ready to Respond: Lessons from the North Sea Oil & Gas Industry', which reflected on his experiences responding to serious incidents as a Control Room Operator, Crisis & Continuity Management Advisor and Incident Management Centre Response Manager within the UK energy sector.

The talk opened with a brief outline of how the 1988 Piper Alpha disaster and the subsequent public inquiry led not only to a sea-change in other offshore safety regimes but also to the emergence of a sense of industry best practice concerning onshore preparations, which continues to be relevant 30 years on. Ewan discussed that ensuring response structures and teams both offshore and onshore are genuinely ready to respond is part of the day-to-day life for operators within the North Sea and outlined the lessons which Business Continuity and Crisis Management practitioners in other industries could learn from their approach.

Ewan's main observations and recommendations include:

  • Be realistic about the level of response your organisation might require - consider adding a duty manager to your existing response framework. Most modern businesses need to be able to respond to an incident at any time. Travelling staff members can get into trouble in the evenings. Cyber-attacks can happen at the weekend. However, many shy away from this reality and rely on ‘best effort’ telephone contact lists to avoid an HR storm! Having a member of staff on call at all times ensures there is a constant point of contact for the business should an incident occur. This addition also ensures there is a clear line of communication and escalation should plans or response teams require invocation. Be realistic about the risks you face and the response you need.
  • Don't just train your responders - train them for their roles. Budget and time commitments can often lead to responders only receiving training as an induction package or as part of an annual exercise. However, this may not prepare them for the specific challenges that key roles may face; do Team Leaders understand how to make decisions under pressure? Do HR representatives understand the role the company plays in liaising with emergency contacts/Next of Kin in the event of an employee being seriously injured, or even killed? Do you know how quickly you need to inform the Information Commissioner in the event of a breach?  Organisations need to seek the right methods of building capability in their response teams, and this might mean role-specific training.
  • Exercise your people as well as your plans. Frequently, organisations struggle with 'testing' responders on incident roles; we may rely on volunteers, and so the annual tabletop suffices to ‘tick the box’ and keep everyone happy. However, you owe it to yourselves and your organisation's response to ensure you have the right people in those roles prepared for an incident, and you can only do that by exercising frequently and to the right standard. As an organisation’s arrangements mature, an exercise programme should be built up: this should include regular simulated exercises, which help to apply more realistic ‘incident’ pressure in a safe learning environment.

If you'd like further information on the content of Ewan's seminar or wish to discuss opportunities for one of our team to speak at your conferences or events, please get in touch with us here.