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Program Aimed at Educating First Responders on Pipeline Emergencies

November 16, 2017  |  Robert Singletary, Past President, Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs
This article appeared in the November 2017 issue of the Georgia's Cities newspaper.
Everyone has heard the phrase “out of sight, out of mind.” Unfortunate­ly, this doesn’t necessarily mean “out of sight, out of danger.” Most people think very little about un­derground utilities—whether they are digging in their yard or somewhere else. But, no matter how careful they are and regardless if prop­er protocol is followed, occasional breaches in gas lines are going to happen. Most gas line breaches or leaks are considered minor by first responders, and include the odor investigations or small leaks that you rarely hear about. Then there are the ones that make the national news, that cause explosions, that disrupt the flow of gasoline and cause fuel prices to sky rocket or even loss of life.

As first responders, we need to know how to treat all responses with the same urgency regard­less of the event size. What we must teach our fire­fighters, first responders and gas utility personnel is that there is no such thing as a “routine” gas leak. Case studies and experts show this type of thinking can get you seriously injured or killed.
The gas industry in Georgia understands the importance of proper training for responding to gas emergencies, which is why these professionals have partnered with us at the Georgia Association of Fire Chiefs (GAFC) to create the Georgia Pipeline Emergency Response Initiative (GPERI), a training program that addresses the needs of the Georgia fire service. The mission of the GPERI program is to “advance the ability of Georgia’s emergency re­sponders to manage pipeline emergencies through improved training, cooperation and communica­tion with pipeline operators.”
Program facilitators fulfill this mission by work­ing together and creating a training program for all first responders in the state. The GAFC utilized the expertise of the Georgia Fire Academy to develop the training classes and state-certified instructors to teach the classes. These classes cover the compo­nents of gas systems and the proper strategies and tactics for responding to gas pipeline emergencies. The classes also utilize case studies and exercises to increase participation from the students.
One of the main focuses of this program from the beginning was to create communication be­tween the gas operators, the gas utility workers and the firefighters. We encourage professionals in these positions to attend the training together to learn from the other responders’ experience and perspective.
Gas pipeline emergencies will continue to hap­pen but our goal is to have Georgia’s first respond­ers ready when they do. This is possible when we come together to fulfill the motto, “Working togeth­er is working for Georgia.”

To learn more about the GPERI program, contact me at rsingletary@gafc.org.
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