The International Association of Drilling Contractors presented its Chairman’s Award to Kenny Baker, Cactus Drilling Superintendent, who continues to earn that award by telling others about the importance of having such shelters on their locations.

The original shelter was designed after a tornado hit a Texas location in 2009. Since most of the company's Oklahoma and Texas rigs were in the tornado belt, Cactus believed something should be done to address the potential hazard. With assistance from welders, fire departments, wind specialists and others, a design was developed utilizing what was currently on location to cost effectively protect Cactus employees without impeding operations. By 2010, all Cactus rigs north of I-20 had the "Safety Tie Downs" implemented during tornado season, a policy which was subsequently changed to cover all rigs all the time.

What followed was a lot of grumbling from toolpushers and superintendents about tornadoes never hitting rigs. Kenny Baker was Superintendent over Rig 117 during the tornado of May 2011 and didn't believe the shelters were necessary. Kenny went to his rig about 30 minutes after the tornado and the picture below is what he saw. But every one of his men walked out of the shelter that day without injury. That incident instilled a passion in Kenny which is evident when he talks about the shelter.

“I remember that two of the people in the shelter were a father and son-in-law,” said Baker. “The son-in-law and his wife had just adopted a baby girl. A lot of tragedy was averted for that family and for others that day because of that shelter.”

Other drilling contractors now have similar shelters, thanks to Baker’s efforts to spread the word. That is one of the reasons the IADC presented the award, which is given every five years to individuals who have made a direct impact on the industry.

“We have shelters, we have weather radios and we have a plan,” said Baker. “I try to tell people that you don’t have to have our plan, but you do need to have a plan.”

The IADC continues to spread the word and Cactus does, too. Hopefully all rigs working in tornado areas will take similar precautions.

“The shelter saved lives,” said Baker. “Telling the story saved a lot more.”