ICS in an Offshore Nutshell

The ICS has proven well within the offshore oil and gas industry – in particular for large scale oil spills – and many ICS providers are eager to advocate that the ICS should be used equally on small day-to-day incidents as it would be during a major offshore incident.

But, that view might be founded in their lack of knowledge on how initial incident response works in the offshore oil and gas industry, and by not acknowledging the fact that a system should be tailored to the organization – and not the organization to the system – for that system to be accepted by the end-user and subsequently applied effectively.

let’s just face it, most ICS providers – unless emerging from a professional career in the emergency services – would have less experience in dealing with day-to-day incidents than the average offshore oil and gas worker.  Furthermore, the provider would very likely not have experienced the thrilling life of sleeping in an accommodation situated above a chemical plant and with an airport on the rooftop as the only means of transport for coming safely back home after work.


ICS – Let’s Take the Fuzz Out of It

The Real Purpose of ICS

The ICS was invented to deal with major complex operational problems and is providing for:

  • Unified Command
  • Area Command
  • A common planning process leading to a common Incident Action Plan
  • Multi-Agency Coordination, and
  • Comprehensive Resource Management

These elements of the ICS–when applied in the right context–have proven well during large scale offshore oil spills, thus gluing it all together by ensuring effective and efficient resource management, inter-organizational relationships, cross-jurisdictional capacities and a coordinated response.

However, imposing such a system on day-to-day operations would not make much sense to an industry who by default are dealing with small incidents using well written, proven and to-the-point Standard Operating Procedures – SOPs.

Therefore, I would here like to point out that the ICS can fairly easy be successfully adopted by any offshore oil, gas, and marine organization, as long as there is focus on its real purpose and in particular also acceptance from the ICS provider of the industry’s vast experience in running high risk operations and routinely dealing with day-to-day incidents.

Dealing with Day-to-Day Incidents

An offshore incident is in most circumstances either of a minor nature and contained within less than a few hours–or it is likely to be uncontrollable.  If the incident is minor, people on board will initially follow standard emergency procedures–which they are fully trained and qualified for–close the incident, repair or replace what was damaged, and carry on with their daily operations.  Hence, no need for ICS.

At the other hand, if the incident is uncontrollable or its nature possess a serious risk to personnel on board, the offshore installation manager – the OIM – would very likely initiate an evacuation and ultimately abandon the installation.  In both instances there would be little need for the use of ICS and more importantly, little time to activate it.

I admit though that above view points are somewhat bold and there of course is something in between the two examples to consider.  The various rigs, platforms and marine vessels can with great advantage be used as safe havens and act as temporary evacuation hubs for a nearby installation in distress, and the use of ICS would here be as invaluable – as it would be for managing major and complex incidents.

A Viable and Efficient Approach to ICS

I believe we can all agree that a Crisis Management Team (CMT) – lead by corporate executives – should focus on the timely communication with all stakeholders and by that protect the organization’s reputation and ultimately its share value.

However, the CMT Lead do also have another significant role during major incidents which is to provide the Incident Commander with policy, mission, strategic directions and authority, as well as supporting the incident with adequate resources.

Consequently, ICS does from my point of view not have any place at the corporate level, but does indeed have a place within the line management, where line managers, engineers and specialists are forming the Incident Management Team – IMT.  Taking this approach to ICS and its use, would very likely result in a successful implementation where the end-users are accepting the system, thus allowing it to embed slowly but steady into the organization’s response culture.


Showing where ICS belongs in the organization

Ensure ICS Awareness at the Support and Executive levels


Let’s go ICS

Any incident management system would only be successfully applied during an incident if it has been properly and frequently trained and as such embedded into the organization’s response culture.

Nevertheless, as the application of the ICS is relatively new within the industry, there are diverse views and concepts on where the system fits into the corporate organization, what the implementation process should involve, when it should be activated, and how it should be applied during emergency response.

Therefore, if you are not yet using the ICS or wants to refine or align your already implemented ICS, then I can suggest that you look up my book on subject matter: “ICS in the Offshore Oil and Gas Industry: Where does it Fit and What is the Implementation Process?”.   To discuss further, you can also book an online coaching and consulting session here


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