Interview with Allen Dodson

Preventing Damage to Pipelines

Faulkner County Judge Allen Dodson served as Local On Scene Coordinator for emergency response during the 2013 Pegasus Pipeline spill in Mayflower, AR. Here’s his advice for preparing for a pipeline emergency in your community.

What happened in Mayflower in March 2013?
A crude oil transmission line ruptured in a residential subdivision in the town of Mayflower, Arkansas, releasing approximately 3,000 barrels of oil. Mayflower authorities evacuated the subdivision, a perimeter was established around the subdivision and the other impacted areas as the oil flowed toward Lake Conway and into a cove.

What was your role during the pipeline emergency?
As the county chief executive, my role during initial response was to work with state and local agencies, including our own, to make an initial assessment, organize resources, and take steps to ensure safety and minimize damage while awaiting further resources and the ramp-up of a formal response organization with federal, state, local, and private entities.

What advice do you have for public officials in pipeline communities who are responsible for community safety or who may play a formal role in pipeline emergency preparedness?
Most important of all – be ready to lead. Learn and become proficient in National Incident Management System (NIMS), Incident Command System (ICS), and how a Unified Command works. Know your role, your duty, and the legal limits of your authority.

Know your resources and those at all levels likely to be available for immediate response. Understand how response evolves from the time of the incident through immediate response, and then how those efforts transition to formal operations by a structured response organization – which can be quite large.

Remember your priorities – safety of responders and citizens, then property, then the environment. Conduct response exercises with pipeline operators. Be involved no matter your role, and learn other roles. Be prepared to think on your feet and make decisions quickly with the information you have available. Trust the skill of those around you, and trust their desire to do well for their community.