| Written by Michal Wozniakowski-Zehenter

Out in the very large waters of seas and oceans, where sea rigs are scattered far away from any shore, the idea of handling emergencies is much tougher than normal. When you're alone out there on the water, figuring out how to deal with urgent problems is different because it's so remote, the weather can change in a matter of minutes, and it's hard to get help. Emergency Response time is even more crucial. Ships called Service Operations Vessels (SOVs) are extremely important out there because they do a lot more than help out -- they're the lifeline for people working out on the edge at sea. We'll take a look at how quickly SOVs can respond to emergencies, diving into what it takes to make fast and solid rescue plans in the middle of the ocean, where timing is critical and there's almost no room for mistakes.
emergency response time

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EMERGENCY RESPONSE TIME: GOLDEN HOUR

There were 225 incidents recorded in 2022 but no fatalities, according to the OEUK Report. Among the most common injuries are hand injuries, but they also happen when you have strokes, heart attacks, and asthma attacks, as well as broken bones, fractures, lifting injuries, and teeth knocked out due to non-accidental medical emergencies.

On UK offshore wind farms, there have been no fatalities despite all of these accidents. It's partly because of offshore paramedics, who get to medical emergencies at a moment's notice, making sure the accident doesn't get worse. But with teams often based on land, how do paramedics handle the critical time pressures when responding to offshore accidents? During the 'golden hour,' which is the brief period when aid is critical, they train so that lives can be saved offshore. Medical professionals call it the 'golden hour' or 'golden time', the period after a traumatic injury when it is most likely that prompt medical treatment will prevent death. That’s why emergency response time is so crucial (read also more about emergency mustering).

Having trained medics on site could save lives, with offshore sites now being far enough from shore to be outside this 'golden hour' for evacuation to shore-side medical facilities. It's also possible for crew transfer vessels (CTV) or helicopters to get hampered or delayed in Northern Europe due to weather conditions.

When there's an accident, experienced on-site medics can take care of everyone right away with an immediate, professional response and have drugs and trauma equipment ready. The availability of this service at sea helps resolve medical issues early before they impact loss time statistics or cause the patient to be evacuated.

 

THE DOMINO EFFECT

There's always one problem that starts everything, regardless if it's a scratch or caught equipment. On the oil rigs, people need to deal with and make the best out of limited supplies. A problem that seems manageable can spiral insanely fast without quick support. If something goes wrong, the whole rig gets all messed up, and if it's ignored, it can worsen to the point that someone has to get off the rig. If equipment makes mistakes, it can cause serious harm, and people can get injured. If something on the rig goes bad, they'll have to stop producing oil, which can be very expensive. A fire needs fast action, too. Otherwise, it will gain strength and make rescuing even harder and scarier. Moreover, workers and rescue teams could get hurt if an urgent situation drags out.

The ocean's ecosystem for fish and plants can be destroyed if oil leaks don't get contained immediately. Everyone needs to act fast to stop a huge calamity and save marine life. If help is slow, the oil companies suffer a huge cash and reputation blow. More accidents pile up the costs and interrupt income streams. Having bad emergency management can make the public think the companies aren't good, resulting in harsher rules. To avoid the ripple effect of chaos, everyone has to respond quickly and stay sharp when the going gets tough. When trouble hits offshore, rescue ships with high-tech gear and skilled teams can handle it awesomely. Having them around before trouble hits makes it less likely that offshore problems will turn into catastrophes. This keeps not only the workers and the sea safe--but also the drilling operation and their profits.

 

FACTORS AFFECTING EMERGENCY RESPONSE TIME

There are a lot of factors that influence emergency response effectiveness, like weather and environmental factors (see also: emergency response technologies). During high seas, strong winds, and poor visibility, boat and helicopter operations can be hard, so you need to plan and find other ways to respond. When preparing for an emergency, it's important to know what SOVs and helicopters can do based on the environment. SOVs can find and reach incident sites faster if they're outfitted with advanced navigation and communication systems. A SOV's availability of medical facilities and rescue equipment, as well as the ability to airlift patients or deliver equipment via helicopter, all affect response times a lot.

For an emergency to go smoothly, crew training and readiness are crucial (continue reading about crew attendance). During emergencies, both SOV crews and helicopter pilots need to practice drills and be familiar with emergency protocols. For rapid deployment, SOVs and helicopters also need clear chains of command and streamlined decision-making processes. To go as smoothly as possible, compliance with maritime and aviation regulations is essential for emergency response efforts. Compliance with maritime and aviation regulations affects how quickly emergency resources are mobilized. Coordination between SOVs, helicopters, and onshore emergency services is critical for optimizing resource utilization and minimizing response times.

 

FINANCIAL LOSSES AND DOWNTIMES

The economic consequences of emergencies in offshore operations extend far beyond the immediate costs of response and recovery. These incidents can have a domino effect (again!), impacting the financial stability of the organizations involved, the broader economy, and the global energy market. A swift and efficient emergency response is not just a matter of mitigating hazards; it's a critical investment in the economic resilience and sustainability of offshore operations.

The most immediate economic impact of an offshore emergency is the direct cost associated with addressing the incident. This includes expenses related to emergency response operations, medical treatments, repairs to damaged infrastructure, and clean-up efforts for environmental contaminations. For instance, a significant oil spill requires extensive clean-up operations involving specialized equipment and personnel, the costs of which can escalate rapidly. Similarly, a fire or structural failure on an offshore platform necessitates immediate repair to prevent further damage and restore operational capacity, incurring substantial expenses for labour, materials, and equipment.

Emergency incidents offshore also have implications for insurance and liability costs. Companies face increased premiums following incidents, especially if investigations reveal deficiencies in safety protocols or emergency preparedness. Additionally, there may be substantial legal liabilities, particularly if there are injuries, fatalities, or significant environmental damage. These costs can be mitigated through effective emergency response strategies that minimize the impact and severity of incidents, demonstrating due diligence and a commitment to safety and environmental stewardship.

 

FAQS

What is Offshore Emergency Response Time?

Offshore Emergency Response Time is the total time it takes to respond to an emergency on an offshore installation, like an oil rig or a wind farm. This time includes everything from the moment an emergency is detected and reported, gathering and sending out emergency teams, the journey those teams take to get to the incident, and finally starting the actual help or intervention needed.

It's crucial to respond quickly to emergencies in the offshore world, where installations can be far from land and exposed to harsh conditions. Emergency teams, like those on SOVs or helicopters, need to be well-prepared and quick to react and get to the scene of an incident if they want to be efficient. Our goal is to minimize the risks and harms of offshore emergencies by getting help as fast as we can (learn more about EHS Risk Management).

What are the 5 levels of emergency response?

Prevention focuses on preventing human hazards, primarily from potential natural disasters or terrorist (both physical and biological) attacks. Preventive measures are designed to provide more permanent protection from disasters; however, not all disasters can be prevented. The risk of loss of life and injury can be limited with good evacuation plans, environmental planning and design standards.

Preparedness is a continuous cycle of planning, organizing, training, equipping, exercising, evaluating, and taking corrective action. Training and exercising plans is the cornerstone of preparedness which focuses on readiness to respond to all-hazards incidents and emergencies.

Response is comprised of the coordination and management of resources (including personnel, equipment, and supplies) utilizing the Incident Command System in an all-hazards approach; and measures taken for life/property/environmental safety. The response phase is a reaction to the occurrence of a catastrophic disaster or emergency.

Recovery consists of those activities that continue beyond the emergency period to restore critical community functions and begin to manage stabilization efforts. The recovery phase begins immediately after the threat to human life has subsided. The goal of the recovery phase is to bring the affected area back to some degree of normalcy.

Mitigation is the effort to reduce loss of life and property by lessening the impact of disasters and emergencies. Mitigation involves structural and non-structural measures taken to limit the impact of disasters and emergencies.

 

TAKEAWAY

Keeping people safe, protecting the environment, and maintaining economic stability require quick emergency response times in offshore operations. During emergencies, Service Operations Vessels are the first line of "defence", providing immediate assistance. The importance of SOVs and quick emergency response grows bigger as offshore activities get more remote and difficult to reach. Innovation and investment in these essential maritime assets are important. Keeping the crew safe was, is and will be one of the top priorities.

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