Reading the report after the accident feels a little like looking through the emergency plans BP filed with offshore drilling regulators before its nightmare accident three years ago in the Gulf of Mexico. BP reassured federal officials that a blowout was highly unlikely, and that any spill could be easily contained. BP’s accident killed 11 men and spewed oil into the Gulf for 87 days.
These “low probability-high impact” accidents are rare, but when they happen, they’re devastating.
What to do? Although it’s still not clear what happened in West, these four steps could reduce the chances of a repeat elsewhere:
- Add sprinklers or water deluge systems to control fires.
- Conduct more frequent inspections for safety lapses.
- Make sure there’s a way to quickly warn nearby residents of trouble or evacuate them in a crisis.
- Maintain a buffer between the plant and the nearby community.