Preparedness Is Imperative

Preparedness Is Imperative

The following content was originally published in the Tesoro Martinez Community Newsletter. Read more articles hereTesoro Martinez Community Newsletter – Winter 2017

Multiple Agencies Practice Working Together in Case of Emergency

Nobody wants to experience an emergency—at work or at home. But if one does occur, it’s always best if you’re prepared for it.

That’s the thinking behind the dozens of safety drills that take place at the Tesoro Martinez Refinery every year. In fact, all our refineries practice their emergency response and readiness. But once a year, the refinery goes all out in what we call our Annual Spill Drill.

We employ the Incident Command System (ICS), a nationally used management system to enable effective and efficient incident response— whether it’s the recent wildfires, an earthquake or even the Warriors Championship Parade.

If it requires multiple agencies to work together, they need a common structure and protocol to follow. It’s critical they use the same language, including acronyms, to communicate.

Unified Command gathers for “real-time” status updates as the situation changes.

Unified Command gathers for “real-time” status updates as the situation changes.

The exercise involves more than 100 Tesoro employees and dozens of people from regulatory agencies from federal, state and local jurisdictions. This serves multiple purposes: They have the opportunity to drill with us and learn our procedures, our landscape and our people, and, yes, they get to evaluate our performance.

This year, we simulated an oil spill at the Avon Wharf, the wharf we use to load our finished product onto ships. While the spill is not a real one, we respond in real time, using real meteorological information. But added to it, we inject what we call “Truth.” We have volunteers whose job it is to call various departments and ask tough questions, add new information, and test our ability to react and respond.

For example, someone may call claiming to be from local media saying they see a lot of emergency response vehicles—and want to know what’s going on. Do we have information to pass along? A “spouse” of an employee may call saying he saw information on social media and he can’t reach his wife who works on-site. How do we verify her safety and respond? We may find out the tide is coming in—where do we need to lay boom to protect the shoreline? And do we then need to notify the Park District to close beaches that are in the path? More importantly, what steps do we need to take to safely stop the leak? And what resources are we going to need now and 24 hours from now?

To help us through all that, we set up what is called Unified Command, which is made up of various agencies along with Tesoro. So in this year’s drill we had:

U.S. Coast Guard as the Federal On-Scene Coordinator
California Department of Fish and Wildlife as the State On-Scene Coordinator
Contra Costa Hazardous Materials Commission as the Local On-Scene Coordinator
• Tesoro’s Incident Commander

Together they set objectives; ensure the safety of the public, employees and on-scene responders; maximize protection of environmentally sensitive areas; contain the spill; inform stakeholders; and so much more. It’s an impressive sight to see—all these groups working together.

At the end of the day, Incident Commander Don Gray thanked the many volunteers for another successful drill.

The drill begins at 7:45 a.m. with a briefing and ends at about 4 p.m. with a wrap-up meeting. In between, people are working in various capacities: operations, planning, logistics and finance. “These drills are important, and we take them very seriously,” says this year’s Incident Commander, Don Gray. “Because we do, we are able to be better prepared and continuously improve.” One thing Gray learned during this particular drill is the importance of not making assumptions. “Follow the process. It’s as basic as that,” he says. “When we make assumptions about a situation, that’s when mistakes can be made that cost time and resources. That point was driven home during this exercise.”

“While these annual drills are very valuable to our community and our facility, they do require months of planning and coordinating,” adds Brian Berkley, Tesoro’s Emergency Response Coordinator. “We are fortunate to have time on our side when planning for these drills. During actual events, however, time does not allow us this same opportunity for this type of preparation. Thus, we treat the planning, drilling and execution as though it were a real event, and welcome the evaluation of execution we receive from our federal, state and local government agencies. Through this process, we are able to be successful here in our facility, for our community, as well as be a resource when called upon.”

We hope to never have to put these skills into practice. But if that day comes, you can rest assured that Tesoro will respond effectively and efficiently, alongside the federal, state and local responders. After all, safety is our number one priority.

Click here to read more about Tesoro’s commitment to Spill Prevention and Emergency Preparedness.