Why Are They Asking About “Identified Sites”?

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Every now and then pipeline companies will send letters to emergency officials asking for information about “Identified Sites”.  Why are they doing this?  The answer is somewhat complicated, but it has to do with managing the integrity of the pipelines.

Pipeline companies began developing formal pipeline integrity management programs about ten years ago.  These programs are risk-based and focus on populated areas where a leak could have a significant impact or the consequences would be very serious.  Operators take additional steps to monitor and inspect pipelines in these “high consequence areas” to make sure the system integrity is not compromised.  Identified sites are smaller areas where people may congregate near a pipeline.  If enough people occupy a site, it will be designated as a high consequence area and additional safety measures will be performed.

While operators have an excellent understanding of their systems, there are outside factors that may not be obvious to them.  This is especially true for areas that are used for outdoor activities or gatherings, but that are not necessarily set aside for that purpose.  These can include unmarked camping areas, locations where younger people gather to play sports outside of public parks, places where people come together on the weekends for special events, places habituated by indigent people, and any other similar unmarked area where people might gather frequently.

Operators are also concerned with identifying places known to be occupied by people who, as a result of disability, may be more difficult to evacuate in the event of an emergency.  Facilities in this category may include nursing homes, schools, medical facilities or hospitals–even prisons.  This information assists them with the development of emergency response plans that take such facilities into account, as well as providing the means to create and dispense materials that can be used to alert and to educate those who live or work in the vicinity of a pipeline.

It is important for a pipeline operator to identify places of congregation and other facilities that may be at greater risk of consequence if a pipeline incident were to occur.  Pipeline companies attempt to gain information from those people who know the local area best, typically law enforcement, emergency responders and local officials.  Each year, letters are sent to local officials asking for help in identifying these potentially more sensitive locations in their communities. Please respond to these requests and provide whatever information you can.

Additional information about identified sites can be found by clicking here.  Specific information about a pipeline operator’s integrity management program should be obtained by contacting the operator directly.

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