June 9, 2011 | Mark Paradies

NTSB Press Release: 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@ntsb.gov
202-314-6100

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