What other plans need better review?

Published 11:02 pm Friday, June 18, 2010

As we learn more details of BP’s pre-Deepwater Horizon explosion written emergency response plans, it makes us wonder what other government-required emergency response plans need closer scrutiny.

BP had a 582-page plan on how it would respond to a major spill in the Gulf, as well as another specific plan for the Deepwater rig, on file with the Minerals Management Service (MMS) at the time of the disaster.

BP said in the larger document that the company had planned for a worst-case scenario of 12.6 million gallons per day, and that skimming vessels could recover 17.6 million gallons per day. It also cited a website with locations where response supplies were stored on the Gulf Coast. But the website address listed took the user to “what appears to be a Japanese social networking site.”

As The Associated Press has reported, the plan has some major faux pas:

• Among the experts it cites for possible consultation is a professor who died in 2005.

• Other experts are listed with incorrect names and phone numbers, and some offices have numbers that are no longer in service.

• Someone at BP apparently wasted time worrying about the impact of a spill on walruses, sea lions and seals. None of those creatures is found in or near the Gulf of Mexico.

• There’s no mention of the Gulf loop current and the possibility of oil being caught up in it and conveyed to South Florida or even the East Coast.

The contents show that neither the writer nor the reviewer of emergency plans for the MMS was very adept at their jobs. Which leaves us to wonder if any of us who have to write emergency reaction/response plans have fully done our jobs in preparing for possible disasters.

Or, conversely, has the federal government put too much emphasis on enforcing small-setting workplace safety rules at the expense of the entire Gulf of Mexico?