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NTSB ISSUES THREE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS AFTER IT FINDS DEFICIENCIES IN EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS OF PIPELINE OPERATORS



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                      NTSB PRESS RELEASE

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National Transportation Safety Board

Washington, DC 20594

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: June 8, 2011

SB-11-15

 

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NTSB ISSUES THREE SAFETY RECOMMENDATIONS AFTER IT FINDS

DEFICIENCIES IN EMERGENCY NOTIFICATION REQUIREMENTS OF

PIPELINE OPERATORS

 

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Washington, D.C. - The National Transportation Safety Board

today issued three safety recommendations to address

deficiencies in emergency notification procedures uncovered

during its investigation into the Pacific Gas and Electric

Company (PG&E) pipeline rupture and explosion that occurred

in San Bruno, California, on September 9, 2010. The accident

killed eight people, injured many more, destroyed 38 homes

and damaged 70 others.

 

The investigation revealed that emergency responders in

communities around the country may not have the information

that they need in order to most effectively react to a

pipeline leak or rupture.

 

Although the local fire department in San Bruno was aware of

the PG&E natural gas distribution system that traversed the

city, it was unaware of the much larger transmission

pipeline that ruptured in the accident. The lack of

information about components of a pipeline system can put

emergency responders at greater risk and reduce the

effectiveness of the response.

 

The NTSB is concerned that this lack of information is not

unique to San Bruno. Therefore the NTSB recommended that the

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration

(PHMSA) issue guidance to pipeline operators regarding

sharing system specific information (including pipe

diameter, operating pressure, product transported, and

potential impact radius) with the emergency response

agencies in the communities and jurisdictions where their

pipelines are located.

The NTSB also discovered that for a period of 16 minutes

following the rupture of the pipeline in San Bruno, the

local 911 emergency call center was not notified by PG&E

technicians as they were trying to interpret the alarms and

low-pressure indications on the pipeline to determine what

had occurred.

 

Because the prompt notification of local emergency response

agencies through 911 can be crucial to the success of the

emergency response effort, the NTSB has recommended that

PHMSA issue guidance to pipeline operators about the

necessity of control room operators immediately and directly

notifying the appropriate 911 emergency call centers when a

possible rupture of any pipeline is indicated. 

 

The NTSB also made a recommendation to PG&E to require its

control room operators to immediately call 911 when a

possible rupture of any pipeline is suspected.

 

"Pipeline operators and emergency responders must work

together to protect their communities," said NTSB Chairman

Deborah A.P. Hersman. "To enhance public safety they must

coordinate in advance and ensure that timely notification

occurs during an emergency."

 

The San Bruno accident investigation is on-going. Findings,

conclusions and a determination of probable cause will be

made at a public Board Meeting in Washington, D.C., later

this year. Additional safety recommendations may be issued

at that time.

 

SAFETY RECOMMENDATION LETTERS

 

Pacific Gas and Electric Company: http://go.usa.gov/DtQ

Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration:

http://go.usa.gov/DtU

 

RELATED INFORMATION

 

San Bruno Pipeline accident web page:

http://www.ntsb.gov/events/2011/San_Bruno_CA/default.htm

 

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NTSB Media Contact: Peter Knudson

peter.knudson@xxxxxxxx

202-314-6100

 

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