Page 24: of Maritime Logistics Professional Magazine (Q1 2011)
24 Maritime Professional 1Q 2011 ages of Katrina, a retired police captain from Charlotte, NC set out for Louisiana with several colleagues with the inten- tion of providing competent help in the disaster response. Ten days later, they returned to North Carolina, frustrated with their inability to become integrated into the relief effort.
Preceding Allen’s belated arrival in New Orleans, they found no organized way of being used. They were not alone.
Thousands experienced similar issues and out of the mess came a new acronym: “spontaneous unaffiliated volunteers,” or SUV’s, for short.
Future disaster response has to include a provision for the orderly intake of these so-called SUV’s. Actually making that part of response doctrine won’t be easy. “The problem is – and you’ll find this with any NGO, not-for-profit or volunteer organization – there’s the issue of training, certification, qual- ifications and how you use these folks in an operational envi- ronment.” But, if Katrina’s volunteer issue involved the
SUV’s, it was the “vessels of opportunity” that created a headache of equal or greater proportion during the Deepwater response.
Presented with a motley fleet of 3,000 vessels, some man- aged by contractors and others certified by local governments for participation, the issue of which vessels got access was difficult to manage. Allen explains, “A well-intentioned BP thought that the best way to deal with the shrimpers they’d put out of work was to put them to work. In their mind, this was an expedient way to give employment and put money in their pockets.” From the start, these resources were being deployed without a command and control system. Eventually, the command-and-control of these volunteer vessels involved
Allen seizing airspace over the affected region. As a point of emphasis, he adds, “I would never again try to take on an operation of that magnitude without controlling the airspace to begin with. And, in Deepwater, we probably came in too late with the concept of airspace as it was.”
Failing to prepare for volunteers has its consequences.
During the Katrina response, for example, people claiming to be FEMA Animal Rescue personnel, secured animals, and were never heard from again. Legitimate volunteers then had to be turned away because the response command had no way of knowing who was well-intentioned and who was not. Allen is adamant on this point: “We have to find a way to pre-iden- tify these folks so that they can have training, access and security when the real crisis hits.”
Already, Allen has done a fair amount of outreach, attempt- ing to at least informally jumpstart something which has to eventually become a mainstream process. Asked if he thought
DHS might be the best place for this function, Allen replied, “Not necessarily – actually, probably not.” He points to
R&D: The Time is Now “The worst time to do spill response R&D is during a spill. We should have done better, beforehand and afterwards. Afterwards is now.”
Allen will get no argument on this point. Deciding who to put in charge of this task remains unclear. That’s because the technical capa- bility in spill response resides chiefly outside the government. In actu- al practice, an interagency committee on oil spill response, mandated by OPA-90, has been empanelled and meeting periodically for 20 years. In the first five years after OPA-90, millions of dollars in research money was appropriated and spent. That funding, over time, has now been drastically reduced through the OMB process.
All of the blame cannot be laid at the feet of government. Allen says that industry needs to do more, too. “All of the R&D done in the wake of EXXON VALDEZ was what I call tanker-centric. Along the way, we’ve lost track of the fact that the oil drilling industry had gone deep offshore. We all need to come up to speed on what is going on out there and put more emphasis on wellhead control.”