TO FACILITIES WITHIN A PORT
in a port may take many forms - fire, release of
hazardous materials, confined space incidents,
explosion, or criminal activity such as theft,
hostage taking or stowaways. Incidents may occur
on land, on water, in the water or on board a
vessel - domestic or foreign, manned or unmanned.
The variety is endless; the area vast, the
vessels and crews ever changing yet ever present.
Planning: How do we
plan for emergencies in such an environment? On
land, the variables of tide and current are
absent and the participants in emergency response
are usually local residents - or at least from
adjacent areas. In the port, access may hindered
by physical or legal means: communications may be
affected by language, cultural or other barriers.
planning is essential: good planning is detailed
enough to provide quick, efficient and effective
response; flexible enough to allow changes of
direction if required. No one foretold an ice
storm (Eastern North America, 1998): it would
have sounded too fantastic. However, measures
taken for other, predicted situations were
employed to deal with the results of the storm.
of Emergencies: The first step in any planning
process is to assess what types of emergencies
may or might occur. Among the more obvious
possibilities for a port are:
Flood or unusually
high tides or fast currents may also be causes of
emergencies such as broken moorings, or even
vessels adrift (without power).
which usually involve the Fire Department,
may involve the Ambulance Service, while
situations such as:
- Contagious or
teams and hospitals, while
- NCB (Nuclear/Chemical/Biological
Will involve Fire,
Ambulance, Police and possibly Military. The role
of police in many emergencies relates to crowd
control but in cases of
- Bomb Threat
- Large scale
- Smuggling -
Drugs, Contraband, or Car theft.
The police will be
the main players. As the millenium approaches the
possibility of an NCB Strike increases and
Vancouver is located near areas where extremist
groups are located.
A long but not
exhaustive list of potential participants in a
Port Emergency follows:
- Coast Guard
and Vessel Traffic Services
- Marine Safety
Agencies and Clean - up Services
- Fish and
Emergency Response Teams
- Search and
& Indemnity Clubs
- Ship's Agents
Companies including Rail, Road, Water,
traffic may be classified as:
Each group has its
own mandate, mores, cultural and communications
problems. The very operation of the port depends
upon good communications so why not build on
existing channels to provide emergency response
of Emergency Response: The
following is not intended to be a complete list
of requirements, merely some of the main issues.
All of these may be planned for in advance, e.g.
Communications may be established and tested
monthly. Ask questions: can Fire Department A
communicate with B? If so, how? Can Police and
Ambulance speak directly to each other?
generally available, if people know who and what
to ask for. Are the ground workers aware of what
to do, whom to call, in an emergency? Access to
the scene of the incident sounds easy, but do the
Emergency Responders know the way? Perhaps
Terminal Operators should establish routes of
access so that an incident on, say, one vessel
does not require closure of the whole facility.
and Resources such as -
- F/F Agents
- Food and
- Staging Areas
to achieve an integrated response:
- Mutual Aid
- Sharing of
Information and Resources
Partnerships, unified response, coordinated dispatch and
inter-agency orientation are some methods by
which efficiency, effectiveness and economy in
resources may be achieved. Often such initiatives,
though worthy and well intentioned, fail to
achieve their aim. Why?
suggests that failure to integrate a multi-agency
response may be caused by
- A paper
agreement which has never been
implemented by the "rank and file"
management and supervisors not meeting
their opposite numbers frequently
- Reluctance to
exercise emergency response actions or
- Lack of
personnel trained to an agreed standard.
identify the hazard and assess the risk: When all
goes well it is often said,
"it's not broken so don't fix it."
Planning for emergencies may be seen as "tempting
fate". Emergency planners must play "what
if?" Each time they identify a potentially
hazardous situation the risk is assessed and, if
thought serious and likely, measures taken to
eliminate the possibility or
minimize the effect.
- Quantify Risk
These are long
established methods of loss control, but more
often talked about than practiced. The first step
is often the hardest; actually to assess the
hazard and degree of risk. The next step is
equally difficult: that is to -
Present Resources of:
we know what resources we, or other agencies have
we can then - Identify
the Gap - And take steps to reduce it.
The closer our
normal operational procedures are to desirable
emergency procedures the greater the chances of a
successful response. E.g. if HazMat information
is routinely copied to Emergency Services, there
should be no delay in obtaining it in an
emergency. Another example: if fire wires (emergency
towing wires) are routinely rigged by all vessels
in port they will be ready if and when needed.
is often seen as a "necessary evil" -
and the idea of training with others from outside
the company may seem somehow to be an admission
of weakness. We all have our areas of specialty
and cannot do all things equally well. To
function as one organization (which is the goal
of Integrated Response) we must:
Together to Agreed Standards - unless we
work in complementary (not identical) ways, we
cannot hope to work together. This covers
equipment, terminology, etc.
Functions - all sections of the organization
must know their roles and responsibilities. Just
because a senior manager is a great engineer or
accountant does not mean he or she may function
well in an emergency. Skills must be learned and
Exercise Operational Functions - everyone must practice
their skills. This means deploying and operating
the response equipment, e.g. if you have an oil
skimmer, practice using it - don't just check it
and leave it in the shed - it may not work when
Planning through drills - at agreed
intervals, pull together the above functions and
test an identified scenario through a full-scale
drill. This will show how feasible the planned
response is likely to be. The plan may be
unworkable: change it.
training to a minimum - the above drills,
though useful, are contingent for success on the
planning and the regular exercise of Management
and Operational Functions. To many large-scale
drills are not only costly but unproductive and
may generate resentment. Better to have all the
parts working smoothly before embarking on a full
scale, multi-agency exercise.
frequently with other organizations -
all levels meet with their opposite numbers, not
just senior management. It is important to
establish lines of communications between
organizations, both formally and informally. In
an emergency, people will relate better to
someone they know, who knows their organization.
offer orientations to other organizations.
We cannot expect others to appreciate our needs,
concerns and limitations if we do not inform them.
One excellent example is the response of Fire
Departments to the tours of Vessel Traffic
Services Centre; after learning about the Centre
the Departments modified their SOGs (Standard
Operating Guidelines) for Emergency Response by
Fireboats, resulting in a better system for all.
communications monthly. This is one of
the easiest things to do and it is rarely done.
Call. Test the fan out or other procedures. If a
number is stated to be a 24 hour number, call it.
If you get an answering machine, or there is
failure to answer, then it is not a 24 hour
number and appropriate actions must be taken. It
takes less than 20 minutes (on average) to test
communications. Systems and numbers change,
people change: how often have you called someone
after a few months and found their number
disconnected or changed? It is essential to
continually check communications regularly.
Weekly would be better, but monthly is a good
procedures annually. As with
communications, people and situations change.
Plans must be reviewed at least annually. If
there is a good system of exercising and drills,
the work of review will be minimal.
Conclusion: Of course,
if the process of planning and prevention is on-going,
the most likely hazardous occurrences will be
reduced. This in turn leads to a sense of
complacency until there is an incident when the
cycle begins anew. It may seem trite to say that
emergency response may be improved simply by
meeting with other agencies: there must be more
than just talk. But if we do not meet
specifically to plan emergency response actions,
to agree and review plans and to train together,
how may we expect to respond together?
The exact "how"
to achieve all this is left to the individual
organizations. Each port is different: the answer
to "who's in charge?" will vary from
port to port and from incident to incident. Use
of an ICS (Incident Command
IMS (Incident Management System) will almost
certainly aid in integrating an emergency
response - but it must be practiced to be
In a world where
"doing more with less" has become a
slogan, no one agency can or should assume all
responsibilities or have all control. In a port,
more than anywhere else, integration of emergency
response to the users makes sense, is achievable
and is happening.
© John F. Lewis 1998