Emergency Preparedness & Pipelines

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Emergency planning has become a critical responsibility at all levels of government. Across the country, governments and first responders help maintain community safety by developing strong emergency response plans. Although operators take steps to prevent pipeline accidents, it is important for communities to be prepared. Local and national organizations lead the way with comprehensive planning efforts. Government agencies and first responders are asked to evaluate potential threats and risks that different situations pose to their community and develop appropriate contingency plans in response to those threats. While terrorism and natural disasters are two of the most common events evaluated, emergency response relating to natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines is also important to consider. These are normally considered low frequency, high consequence events.

The City and County of Denver, Colorado recently reviewed the major threats in their community and concluded that a release of hazardous materials from a pipeline was an event they wanted to address in their Emergency Operations Plan. They commissioned a study to collect information and develop a Hazard Annex Specific to Pipeline Incidents for the Denver Emergency Operations Plan. A copy of the study and the draft of the Hazard Annex can be downloaded from the Government and Emergency Officials web page at www.pipelineawareness.org. This resource may provide useful background information when considering the development of a Hazard Annex specific to pipeline incidents.

At the national level, the National Transportation Research Board (TRB), the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) and pipeline operators have embarked on a number of partnerships in an effort to improve the way pipeline operators and emergency responders share key operational and emergency response information between entities. PHMSA has also partnered with the National Association of State Fire Marshalls to issue a comprehensive training program entitled Pipeline Emergencies. Operators also support numerous other educational outreach programs relating to emergency response in the communities in which they operate including in-person meetings, drills, training exercises and collaborative meetings with local pipeline companies.