What is a CAP?
A community advisory panel is generally a small group (20 or so) of citizens who represent the fabric of their community and who have made a commitment to meet with the management of the local chemical, petroleum, or other industry facility or group of facilities on a regular basis to discuss issues of mutual interest. It is an independent body that should involve all of the key audiences and reflect the diversity within the community.
A CAP is not a public relations program designed to improve the image of a facility or the chemical industry. Nor is it an activist group for the purpose of closing down a plant.
The CAP should provide a forum for open and honest dialogue between citizens and plant management to break down stereotypes and “corporate walls.” Ultimately, a community advisory panel provides the opportunity for building mutual respect and trust.
In addition to important exchanges of information, some very meaningful activities have come out of CAPs. Plant managers are learning how important dialogue with their neighbors can be. Our CAPs are built with mutual respect and trust as the foundation, allowing communities to benefit from the openness of the plant as they face challenges and develop future plans.
In successful CAPs, the tough subjects are tackled. An effort is made to bring the group to a consensus on these issues or to understand why agreement is not possible. Successful CAPs also become involved in projects that benefit its community. Panel members, supported by the plants, take on projects they feel represent the public interest such as promoting 911 services in their community, and developing emergency response and shelter-in-place material and sharing them with local citizens.