Three plans for fuel emergencies have recently been released by UK public sector agencies. This review compares the three plans, highlights certain points from each, and provides internet links to the documents.
DECC's Business Continuity Management for Fuel Shortages (Nov. 08)
Although DECC is now the lead ministry during fuel emergencies, their document is the shortest (10 pages) of the three plans and overlooks some fundamental information which is contained in the other two.
DECC warns that local fuel supplies "could be exhausted within 48 hours of an [extreme] incident and it could take up to 10 days before stock levels are fully restored" (p.2).
DECC's Maximum Purchasing Scheme would limit purchase for non-essential users (ie. the general public) to a maximum of 15 litres (roughly 3 gallons) per purchase.
This appears to be an impractical strategy for two reasons:
Other analysts have recommended a fixed limit, say 30 litres (no more and no less) as a way of preventing topping-up.
In Annex A, this document refers to the Designated Filling Stations (DFS) which “would provide priority access to road transport fuels for defined customers requiring them for a priority use” (p. 7). Curiously, there is no mention of the fact that over 650 of these DFS sites have already been identified (a fact which is mentioned in the two NHS documents which follow).
Having a number of pre-identified sites which will be restricted to defined priority users is prudent planning.
Here is the link:
NHS Guidance on Planning for Disruption to Road Fuel Supply (Oct. 08)
At 30 pages, this is the longest of the three documents.
It contains several interesting observations:
Here is the link:
Heart of Birmingham NHS Fuel Shortage Plan (reviewed June 27/09)
This 21-page plan offers a more detailed look at the complexities of managing the Temporary Logo Scheme (p. 4-5), issues around communicating info to the public (p. 6), concerns about supply chain failures, etc.
Returning to the topic of budgetary problems arising during a fuel emergency, it is puzzling to see no warnings in any of these three documents that pricing during a fuel emergency could prove problematic to their budgets and/or to the service delivery capability of their agencies.
In the Birmingham document, the topic of Financial Implications (Sect. 12.0) is raised, but this section contains only one unfathomable sentence: "There are no significant financial implications anticipated in the implementation of this plan" (p. 13).
Similarly, Sect. 10.0 on Training states: "There are no specific training requirements associated with this plan" (p. 13).
Both NHS documents contain some specific and sensible recommendations for personnel, for delivery of services, accountability re fuel use, etc. One would think that this would surely require detailed consultation with staff (and subsequent training) in order to implement these recommendations.
Here is the link:
Some final comments
To their credit, UK planners have highlighted two central facts:
In North America, meanwhile, there seems to be no comparable activity to raise the profile of fuel emergencies nor to lay preparatory ground-work at the local level.
However, even the UK planners may be placing insufficient emphasis on the ability of a sustained price spike (potentially coupled by a surge in demand for service) to seriously constrain budgets and the provision of essential services.
These three documents offer a preview of a way of life which most citizens have thankfully never experienced: a society where fuel has suddenly become very expensive, where physical supplies of fuel and food may be restricted, where public services are curtailed, and where the overall economy and the public tax base hang in the balance.
The complexities of managing such an unprecedented situation are enormous.