Fire Rescue Magazine

JAN 2012

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Page 40 of 75

A massive fire roars through a mostly residential neighborhood in San Bruno, Calif., following a pipeline explosion that killed eight people and incinerated the neighborhood. A Pipeline emergency planning & response tools for the emergency response community By Sam Hall with Tim Butters & Lanny Armstrong FIREFIGHTERNATION.COM pproximately 2.5 million miles of natural gas and haz- ardous liquid pipelines crisscross the United States. Tat's enough to circle the earth about 100 times. Some are large transmission pipelines that operate under tremendous pressure, while others are smaller, lower-pressure distribution pipelines that serve our homes and businesses. Tese pipelines are operated by approximately 3,000 companies, large and small, but according to Pasadena (Texas) Fire Chief Lanny Armstrong, one thing unites them: "No matter the size, pressure or operator, all of these pipelines carry hazardous materials that can pose serious risks to people and the environment," he says. When compared to other options, pipelines are one of the safest and most economical means of transporting hazardous materials. Te primary causes of pipeline incidents include corrosion; incorrect operation; material, weld or equipment failure; natural force damage like earthquakes and floods; excavation damage; and other outside force damage like vehicle collisions. Although pipeline incidents are relatively rare considering the total mileage of pipelines and the volume of products transported, pipeline incidents can have cata- strophic consequences. RECENT PIPELINE INCIDENTS Fire departments respond to gas pipeline incidents on a regular basis, but these incidents generally involve small distribution lines at homes or businesses. Large-scale pipeline incidents on major transmission pipelines are low-frequency but potentially high- consequence hazardous materials events. Tese larger transmission pipelines are very different from the smaller distribution pipelines that fire departments typically encounter. According to Tim Butters, deputy administrator of the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), effec- tive risk assessment, emergency response planning and training can increase the safety of the public, emergency responders, and property when pipeline incidents do occur. "Te larger transmission pipelines do not always get the attention they deserve because major pipeline incidents are infrequent, emergency responders simply are not aware of major pipelines in their jurisdictions, or emergency responders are overwhelmed with information on a multitude of hazards and pri- orities in their jurisdictions," he says. (See sidebar on p. 44 for some pipeline facts and figures.) Despite these facts, several recent pipeline incidents have high- lighted the need for communities to be adequately prepared for pipeline emergencies. In September 2010, a gas pipeline rupture and the subsequent ignition in San Bruno, Calif., caused eight fatalities, injuries to more than 60 people, the complete destruction of 38 homes, and damage to 70 other homes. An investigation of the incident revealed that the local emergency responders were not adequately prepared to respond to the pipeline emergency. A second example: a gas pipeline emergency that occurred in Appo- mattox, Va., in September 2008. Te rupture and ensuing fire injured five people and damaged homes and other property in a rural area. Lessons learned from both of these pipeline incidents, as well as several others across the nation, highlight the value of adequate pipeline emergency preparedness, response and a positive working relationship between emergency responders and pipeline operators before the incidents occur. JANUARY 2012 FIRERESCUE MAGAZINE 41

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