One of the responsibilities of living in the paradise of Florida is annually preparing for hurricane season. After a 10- year run with few hurricane impacts in Florida, it is important that we all prepare a plan.
We certainly had a wake-up call with the heavy rains across the state from Tropical Storm Colin this past week. Therefore, I encourage you to visit the Florida Division of Emergency Management website (www.flgetaplan.com) to develop an emergency plan for your family and/or business while it is still early in the season.
Companies in the energy sector have been reviewing and conducting drills based on their plans to face the challenges that hurricanes bring.
The oil and natural gas industry have many moving parts to ensure Floridians have access to 27 million gallons of gasoline and diesel they need daily and enough natural gas to generate over 70 percent of the electricity consumed by Floridians.
There are oil and natural gas platforms in the Gulf of Mexico, refineries that may produce Florida’s gasoline along the Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi coasts as well as overseas, thousands of miles of pipelines that bring our power plants and homes natural gas, port terminals that receive the barges carrying 95 percent of the gasoline and diesel entering Florida, and the thousands of trucks that deliver the fuel from terminals to retail stations.
Obviously, a sufficiently large storm can disrupt several of these stages, so emergency planning is critical for the industry and for us individually as consumers.
Leading up to hurricane season, oil and natural gas companies conduct drills that simulate emergency conditions and activate personnel, equipment and procedures that will be used in a real emergency to ensure contingency plans are well-founded, and personnel are familiar with their roles and responsibilities.
Some of the drills include evacuation of personnel from Gulf oil platforms, simulate safe shutdown and startup of refineries, and develop alternative distribution routes.
Oil and natural gas companies sometimes invite the Florida Division of Emergency Management to participate in some of these drills and, likewise, the Division of Emergency Management has requested company participation in several of their drills.
A plan is critical to responding and rebuilding as expeditiously and safely as possible.
A hurricane may disrupt gasoline supplies for an extended period of time. Following a storm, ports may have to be cleared and approved by the Coast Guard for operation; terminals, pipelines and stations have to be inspected for safety; safe routes have to be determined for trucks to get fuel to stations, and commercial power from electric utilities is needed.
Once the storm clears, some stations may not have gasoline or commercial power to meet our needs, as shown by past experience with hurricanes. The Division of Emergency Management requires potentially limited fuel supplies to be distributed in a prioritized fashion to ensure the safety and well-being of all Floridians: first to emergency responders, then to hospitals and other health care facilities, to evacuation routes and finally to neighborhoods.
This is one more reason to develop your plan before the storm arrives.
As part of your plan, consider when to evacuate based on your proximity to the coast, the size of evacuation routes, and the nearest evacuation center to your location. Discuss these issues with local emergency planners so you are confident your plan is sound.
Not only can these decisions limit the amount of fuel consumed, but they can also enhance your family’s safety. If we all work cooperatively, our response and recovery from a devastating hurricane will proceed more quickly and effectively.
As every Floridian should know, it is much more than just a slogan … Get a Plan!
David R. Mica is Executive Director of the Florida Petroleum Council, a division of the American Petroleum Institute.