EXCLUSIVE: Active assailant events are on the rise – what next for oil and gas?

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Adam Serna, Director of Vertical Markets for Allied Universal explores the procedures and processes that oil and gas companies need to have in place should an active assailant act occur.

In 2023, active shooter events have decreased, correct? To put it simply: no.

According to data reported in the Gun Violence Archive, there have been more than 100 mass shootings in the US in only the first three months of 2023 – a significant increase from the total of 30 reported in 2017, as per the FBI article Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2014 and 2017.

Workplace settings

What can the oil and gas industry do to prevent mass shootings? Stay vigilant and active at work sites.

Active assailant events historically happen in areas of high traffic and/or a high concentration of people and the oil and gas industry satisfies both of these parameters.

There are two distinct workplace settings to consider with developing a security plan for oil and gas companies:

Office environments

Brick and mortar locations housing administrative personnel, executive staff and other office support team members for oil and gas are sometimes governed by a property management company. For this reason, it’s critical that the security staff from both companies (tenant and property management) collaborate on all security and safety protocols – including a comprehensive security plan and both internal and external security staff resources.

In addition, office environments that may have been previously dormant or vacant for some time require a comprehensive review and update of established safety and security strategies. These include a review of building blueprints to identify active workspaces as well as egress and ingress avenues that should be updated in the current security plan. The security plan should ultimately reside with the stakeholder of the property.

Industrial or plant sites

The location of industrial and plant oil and gas sites represents its own set of limitations and concerns. In addition to those outlined above, the impact of weather, coverage area and regulatory compliances are also important factors when developing a security plan. This is especially true for facilities that contain regulated chemicals and/or are located on an active waterway.

Mitigating risk for oil and gas

In the security planning process, the organization identifies which assets require protection and the types of risks that could compromise those assets. This critical function determines the level of appropriate countermeasures that are required based upon a formally documented process. Risks are categorized into three categories:

  • People: human resources are usually the most critical asset within any organization and must receive a stronger consideration when assessing risk
    • Property: focus on safeguarding physical property or intellectual assets
    • Legal liability: legal risks can also affect people and property but need to be considered as a separate category. This is due, in part, to the extent which lawsuits affect the security industry

Effective security planning must be reviewed and shared with all appropriate internal stakeholders, including internal personnel and external resources such as first responders.

To ensure oil and gas facilities are prepared for the unexpected, executives must continue to review processes and technology capabilities; train and retrain on potential incidents; and hire subject matter specialists familiar with industry standards. These include the Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS) 6 CFR 27, Maritime Transportation Security Act (MTSA) 33 CFR 105 and CFATA Risk-Based Performance Standard 18 which outline key factors to be considered when conducting third-party assessments of security procedures to ensure compliance.

It is also critically important for facilities to regularly conduct live exercises in collaboration with private/public first responders to meet standards and regulations. This prepares these agencies that respond to active shooter incidents to be uniquely familiar with the layout and special considerations of a chemical facility. 

The modern workforce

In the post-pandemic world, consideration must also be given to modified, hybrid and other unique “in-office” or “on-site” schedules.

Many oil and gas companies have scaled back the requirement for employees to report to the workplace five days a week, opting to implement modified work schedules with some individuals coming to the workplace anywhere from twice to three times a week. Important questions must be addressed relating to modified work schedules to ensure the security of facilities and employees, including:   

  • Who is required to return to the office and how often?
  • What changes have been made to the site security plan and/or security program to properly secure people, property and data?
  • What changes have resulted from any new economic, social and political landscapes and have they been addressed for potential threats?
  • What are the steps for recovery if an incident has occurred?

Considerations for oil and gas regulatory updates and changes include:

  • What changes have there been to any of the regulatory compliances regarding cybersecurity?
  • Are field office locations in-sync with main office locations?
  • Have existing office locations been updated with current communication processes and security procedures?
  • When was the last time the security program procedures were reviewed and employees trained?
  • Has your security program evolved to implement technology solutions that comply with Maritime Transportation Security Act and Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards while improving data collection and identifying trends?    

After an event

Let’s say an active assailant act has occurred at either an office location or plant site for an oil and gas organization. What now? Are you prepared to address the recovery stage? Recovery is a step that is often overlooked. This step is multifaceted and includes multiple levels of personnel internal and external. A great baseline resource is provided by Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) Active Shooter Recovery Guide.

Advice and topics covered include:

Short-term recovery

  • Ensure life safety
    • Assign assembly areas and the employees for each
    • Establish leadership actions and responsibilities
  • Co-ordination of medical attention
    • Arrange provisions for immediate care at a scene
    • Apply procedures for medical care that require medical facilities
  • Crisis response
    • Send required communications regarding incident, location and status
    • Connect with emergency personnel and aid in next step procedures
  • Crisis support
    • Establish a formal or informal Family Assistance Center (FAC)
    • Provide basic services such as food, housing, etc.
  • Family reunification process
    • Update family members and reunification processes
    • Ensure the retrieval of belongings  

Long-term support items

  • First steps
    • Ensure physical, mental and/or financial assistance
    • Establish processes for submitting of all necessary paperwork
  • Grief counseling
    • Implement grief counseling as soon as possible
    • Have clear procedures
    • Provide options depending on resources and availability
  • Reopening and resuming operations
    • Enable employees to return at their own pace and be prepared for variation
    • Continue to offer assistance in all areas of mental, physical and financial matters
    • Address continuity plans
  • Anniversaries and memorials
    • Establish to assist and support recovery
    • Assist and encourage individuals to reconnect with former co-workers
  • Post-incident scams and fraud
    • Create lists of existing scams and make these available to employees
    • Implement training to detect scams, especially via cyber-spaces
  • Civil and criminal judicial processes
    • Inform legal staff of occurrences
    • Notify employees of their possible request for involvement
    • Provide grief counselors for possible return of traumatic memories 

Consistency, vigilance and sharing of information for oil and gas companies with trusted industry partners are key. Normally, these emergency preparedness processes are implemented as the result of environmental disasters that occur only certain times of the year.

However, the evolving and increasing active assailant threat doesn’t have a time of year and neither should oil and gas organizations. Preparedness is the key to success when faced with the unexpected.

This article was originally published in the May edition of Security Journal Americas. To read your FREE digital edition, click here.

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