Training Helps Prepare First Responders
With more than 2 million miles of pipeline crisscrossing the United States, pipeline safety is a key component of first responder training. As awareness of this issue spreads, counties are better preparing themselves for potential pipeline emergencies.
The Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation, based in Crandall, provides pipeline safety training and technical assistance to first responders throughout the United States. In Texas, they have educated first responders in 100 counties.
The foundation was born of tragedy. In 1996, a pipeline explosion in Kaufman County claimed the lives of Danielle Dawn Smalley and her friend, Jason Stone. Since the accident, Danielles father has been committed to pipeline safety and in 2002 created the foundation to carry out the work of training first responders, educating the public, and assisting victims and their families.
Kaufman County Judge Wayne Gent said the countys emergency workers handled the tragedy well and were properly prepared to respond to the explosion.
The county supports the foundations work, he said, and would like to see the program reach all Texas counties.
County officials need to know how to recognize the dangers and what to do in an emergency, Gent said.
Candice Caperton, director of external affairs for the foundation, said, Most people are amazed to find out how important this is and want to be more vigilant about their lines.
Pipelines run under all but a handful of Texas counties. And Texas has more miles of pipeline than any other state estimated at 80,000 more pipeline miles than highway miles.
Pipelines carry crude oil, gasoline, jet fuel, kerosene, diesel fuel, home heating oil, natural gas liquids, natural gas, carbon dioxide, or other gases emitted by petroleum products.
Excavators account for 22 percent of pipeline accidents because they failed to make required notification to pipeline and underground utility operators of planned excavation activities, according to foundation reports.
Training by the Smalley Foundation stresses safety first and prepares responders to assess the accident scene and then to properly respond.
Urban sprawl has made the pipeline safety issue even more important. Old lines once removed from heavily populated areas now may be near subdivisions, said Caperton.
The events of 9/11 also have brought pipeline safety to the forefront, she said. Pipelines, which carry 25 percent of the nations total freight and 75 percent of the nations total energy needs, can be a prime target for terrorist activities.
Training assists first responders in identifying pipeline locations, reading line markers, knowing how to identify and deal with a pipelines particular material or gas, and determining who to contact in an emergency.
In addition to the first responder training, the Smalley Foundation provides a class for excavators, a general awareness session, and a session for school administrators/bus drivers. Programs can be tailored to a countys needs and may include from one to all of the offerings.
After completing training, first responders are urged to take the message to others in their communities, such as civic organizations, churches, school organizations, and other public groups. Passing on messages about pipeline leaks, such as dont start an engine or dont drive into a vapor cloud, can help prevent potential injury and loss of life.
We want people to be aware of the dos and donts, Caperton said. Prevention avoiding an explosion is the foundations emphasis.
Pat Norriss, Wichita County commissioner, said her county provides annual pipeline training.
We cant take this for granted, she said. We have to be aware of what to do.
Travis County also sponsored a program in the spring of 2004.
Pete Baldwin, emergency management coordinator for the county, said the program provided valuable information to help first responders protect themselves and the public in the event of an explosion.
Travis County, which declared the week of training Pipeline Safety Awareness Week, had participation from law enforcement, fire, public works, and emergency medical services.
Wichita County has had similar participation from municipalities.
Both Norris and Baldwin believe the multi-disciplinary training is valuable.
If everyone comes to the table, it puts us face to face with who to contact, said Norris. We can be players from the start.
Norris said keeping safety first also can impact the bottom line, keeping a countys workers comp and insurance costs down. In the long run, this training can help save tax dollars.
To find out more about the Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation or to schedule a training session for your county, call 972-472-6500. Tammy Wishard