Joining the Deepwater Horizon Response effort in New Orleans

It’s hard to imagine that within a few short months work would take me to the heart of back-to-back high profile tragedies. First as a Senior Technical Writer on the Fort Hood Commission and a subsequent Air Force Follow-on-Review; and now as a Public Affairs Specialist with the Deepwater Horizon Response’s Joint Information Center.

My heart still aches for the 13 families who had loved ones so senselessly killed that November day. Those were my brothers and sisters in uniform, and that’s a loss I’ll always carry with me. I cannot even begin to imagine what the families of the 11 workers who lost their lives in the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April are going though, but my thoughts and prayers are with them during this difficult time as well.

reaction after learning about both the shooting at Fort Hood and the oil spill was probably similar to many other citizens: why did this happen, and perhaps more importantly, how can I help? I know many, many people speculate on the former question. Of course we want answers and frankly, we need to know why. We need answers so we can protect our loved ones and hopefully prevent similar disasters. Yet, rather than focus on that question right now (which I believe time will bring the answers to), I think our focus should be on the response effort.

work with regards to Fort Hood is complete, and I’m just beginning my new role
as a member of the Unified Area Command for the Deepwater Horizon Response. I’m not sure what is to come in this mission, but I know that I’m working alongside personnel from many government agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Park Services, and many more. Together, we’re leaving no stone left unturned in an effort to mitigate the devastation of the oil spill as best as possible. It’s a team I’m proud to be a part of, and we’re all committed to doing our part in response to the devastation here in the Gulf of Mexico.

For information on the official government response efforts, check out:

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Andrew Krzmarzick

You rock, Cheryl! And I know your presence at these events is not by happenstance! I think I saw a tweet in which you raised your hand to be detailed to Deepwater, right? To me, your proactive response to crisis is a sign of a true leader…will be fun to watch you rise through the ranks as you sign up for challenging assignments and knock the ball out of the park time and again (yes, that’s an intentional reference to your Nats awesomeness). 🙂

Chris Bennett

Great post Cheryl! Any idea how to get Tiger Dams included on the Deepwater site/email situation reports? We’re in all the pictures/videos and have mile after mile deployed out there but never seem to be part of the official updates. I find that odd as you would think it would be helpful to publicize the added protection.

Arvind Nigam

Hey Cheryl, good to find u here. My friend and I set up to help BP, Gov and other stakeholders crowd-source expertise from the world. We got a positive reply from BP as well which is quoted here:

“Oil_Spill_2010 @sonicaaaaaa we saw your message and liked the idea. Official process in place, but we (social media) passed the suggestion forward. ”

Now its been over 04 weeks. We came across a couple of people from South Africa, Finland & even Sri Lanka who were willing to throw their 2 cents in helping US over the disaster. Some waited for response from BP for over 06 weeks before being sent yet another PDF form to be submitted via email.

That’s kinda weird, as you know social media is not just a buzzword. It’s about actions in real time to real people. Why is there no young & smart social media strategist near Deep Water Horizon team to help them utilize soc med to its true potential?

– Arvind


Hi Chris – at the end of the day there’s an administration wide response report. Last night said:

Approximately 2.54 million feet of containment boom and 4.14 million feet of sorbent boom have been deployed to contain the spill—and approximately 600,000 feet of containment boom and 2 million feet of sorbent boom are available.

Is that what you’re talking about? That update can be found online each night at our site.

Chris Bennett

Cheryl, yes, that’s what I’m talking about. Wondering why “Approximately 30 miles of Tiger Dam have been deployed…” doesn’t make it into those reports when it’s land boom ordered by BP and deployed by the National Guard. It’s a huge part of the response.

Chris Bennett

Sara, it’s what is being used along the beaches and marshlands to keep oil from washing further on shore. Typically used for flood control, each dam replaces 500 sandbags. In addition for using these dams as “land boom” for the spill, we have begun vacuuming oil into the tubes (750 gallons each), towed behind smaller boats where large barges cannot get to. This began this week in Plaquemines Parish. More pics and info are at The owner of US Flood is my partner in GovLive, so that’s how I’m connected to everything.


Chris – they might not be using the term “Tiger Dam” but those figures should include the boom you’re referring to.

Chris Bennett

In general (non-commercial terms) there are three types of boom used out there: containment boom (the fence in the water), absorbent boom (the useless white stuff absorbing some oil near shore), and land boom (the fence on the beach). The governor, military and media refer to our product as Tiger Dams, and you may be right that the daily numbers include the land boom, but since it’s differentiated already by most parties it would be nice if it were broken out in the daily report or mentioned by name on the website. Wishful thinking I guess 🙂

Arvind Nigam

Cheryl, I know about that page to accept suggestions on DWHr. IMHO this process doesn’t really help attract ideas and help from people, especially from the experts sitting remotely. When reaching out to BP for something as simple as offering help to rescue birds is so difficult imagine how hard its gonna be for those who scratched a living out of that place and might be desperate to save their beaches and land.

Just to show a simple suffrage of an experienced individual who could have easily helped in containment of spill just see this idea from Michel Mignon from South Africa. He offered help having experienced four oil spills before, and yet it took more than 6 weeks to attend his request?

For majority it’s like this: “I wouldn’t approach and beg to BP to be able to help them. right?”

– Arvind

Chris Bennett

Arvind, I’m not going to disagree with you that submissions to the official site appear to fall on deaf ears. I’m not making an excuse for BP here, but…..

If I were to counter your example of Michel from South Africa, I’d say this guy is one of thousands of vendors trying to sell a product to an overwhelmed customer through a channel that he knows doesn’t get great results. That’s a setup for failure.

A good businessman would find the channels that do work, like selling effected communities on his idea who will then request it from BP, or contacting the response contractor who is ordering the product, or getting it on TV and in the newspapers. That’s how one needs to play ball in this situation. Keep in mind that many coastal communities have pre-positioned disaster response contracts kicking in now. Find out who those contracts are with and get the product in with them, then they’ll present their findings to BP.

(some speculations/assumptions in my comment here, but you get the idea…)

Arvind Nigam

Oh yes, Chris there is no doubt about that. But Internet works differently. Once the floodgates are opened, people are way too smart to reject vested business ideas from the genuine ones.

Besides, if there is someone who has the potential to help (or do small business but bring an impact) then why not? But all of this later. Why the process took 06 weeks to simply ask people into resubmitting the idea again on a piece of PDF? Oh! That’s one big time period to leak gazillions of oil into the sea.

Whatever, I don’t wanna make the discussion stale. I do get your PoV too.

– Arvind


Hi Chris – I just wanted to let you know that I looked into the figures for you. They actually come to our location from the National Incident Command that way. I will try and see if we can get someone up there to separate them.

Arvind – I planning on further investigating the the suggestions situation for you. I do know we have been overwhelmed by ideas from people all over the world that want to help. I will give you an update when I can.

Thanks you guys!

Arvind Nigam

Hey Cheryl, see this finally came out in the open.

Today TechCrunch wrote this which more than overstates the problems faced by BP. They are using wrong tools of social media to crowdsource ideas. All they are doing is paid PR thing, tweet to irate junta and broadcast to the crowd of what they are doing.

There is a lack of effective use of crowd-sourcing ideas. In effect you are not letting people engage with the problem directly and share their knowledge to collaborate with each other. The more you let people to give you ideas and help “transparently”, and let them collaborate the better are your chances to make a positive impact on your brand and solve the crisis etc.

Especially the parody accounts, mud-slinging people one twitter (elsewhere) will lose the wind from their sails because then people will find true spirit of solving the problem with you.

Hope I am making sense to you. Real help is here (example – me), out there (experts) but only if the company is willing to listen. Right? Sorry I am non-native English speaker so I cannot match the exact pitch required here for us to understand.



Hi all. On my third location in Louisiana since I’ve been here. Exhausted. Hopefully things will calm down for me a bit and I will have some more time to write soon.