Gulf Coast strongly representedat 2-day September workshop
Volume 24, No. 1
Believe it or not, innovation directly impacting industrial fire protection was occurring in the policy-making arena. Liquefied natural gas (LNG) plants located on U.S. waterways experienced it firsthand in September by developing policy through deliberation. The common practice for proposal development is for policymakers and interested parties to voice their positions one by one during a hearing. This tunnel communication misses the benefits of people with different positions on the policy interacting to find common ground, to appreciate a better understanding or to value their differences.
As a means to bring policymakers together and use year-end budget funds, the U.S. Coast Guard hosted the Emergency Response Plan Workshop. Individuals in positions of emergency response or emergency preparedness representing the U.S. Coast Guard, law enforcement, LNG facilities, local fire departments and the state department of energy turned out for the two-day workshop. Invited participants included anyone directly involved in or impacted by an emergency incident that could occur at an LNG facility.
Spanning the country, 40 people met in Beaumont, TX, to participate in the workshop. The Gulf Coast region was most strongly represented by participants from Louisiana and Texas. With guests attending from Washington, Oregon and California, the Pacific Coast region boasted that they were also ready to come up with some solutions regarding emergency response plans of LNG. Other states represented included Alabama, District of Columbia and Minnesota.
Listening to what participants said about their emergency response plans served as the primary workshop focus. During breakout group sessions, they determined the aspects of the plans that worked, discussed those that did not work, identified what would work better with a little help or change, and acknowledged what would work better with considerable adaptations. Improving plans by changing the policies transpired as the final focal point.
The focus points were discussed and yielded clear answers during a full day of dialogue in breakout groups, which were led by participant-selected facilitators, based on three areas of emergency response: fire fighting in the terminal and from the waterways; shore side and waterside law enforcement; and command, control and communication. At the end of the day, the three groups merged to share the outcomes at which they arrived, to exchange more ideas and to set priorities for response management to strategize.
Working with the outcomes from the first day of discussion, participants moved into geographic location teams on the second day to discuss how they would modify their emergency response plans to make the best use of company, community, state and federal resources. Clearly defining the policy and diversifying strategy became valuable approaches in the discussion.
At the same time, the conference host, U.S. Coast Guard LNG Program Manager Matthew Hahne, reached out to his key command chain to find answers to questions raised and to identify what changes could be promised. Having feedback before they left the workshop, participants received assurance that they were working together to achieve the best emergency response plan for their plants, communities and emergency responders while complying with policy requirements.
Participants developed an awareness of what other local, state and federal agencies and institutions expected and needed out of the LNG emergency response plan for their role to be deemed affective. They also took the initial steps toward preparing an emergency response plan that would work effectively for all parties involved. Each person returned home to share the progress made and to start making efforts within his individual community by engaging the local community, corporate culture and state policymaking procedures to develop a refined plan for approaching an LNG incident.
Matthew Hahne is scheduled to speak at the Industrial Fire World Emergency Responder Conference & Expo LNG Symposium March 24-25, 2009, in Beaumont, TX.