Partnership Delivers School & Pipeline Safety

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Developing a School Pipeline Emergency Response & Evacuation Plan

Welcome to the School Pipeline Safety Partnership, the joint effort of the Pipeline Association for Public Awareness and the Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation.

The School Pipeline Safety Partnership is the largest and longest-running school pipeline safety program in the nation. Hundreds of schools across the U.S. participate in the program, ensuring they safely co-exist with nearby pipelines.

In an effort to reach school officials across the state of Texas, the School Pipeline Safety Partnership has teamed up with the Texas School Safety Center. As a result, school pipeline safety resources have been developed, enhanced and made available to you in the convenient ways you already access safety information from the Texas School Safety Center which includes online as well as regional and statewide workshops. 

Pipelines are the safest and most efficient method to transport petroleum products across the country in order to meet the increasing energy demands of America. 

In this short video you will learn facts about school pipeline safety, including:

• How to recognize nearby pipeline using markers as well as online mapping tools 

• How to recognize and respond to a possible pipeline leak

• Common pipeline products and hazards

• How you can protect pipelines near your school from damage and prevent a pipeline emergency

Let’s visit to learn about school pipeline safety and keeping your students and staff safe in a pipeline emergency. 

If your school has a custom school pipeline safety webpage you can find it by clicking on “find my schools webpage” or start typing the name of your school in the search box.

Please note that only schools that have been enrolled in the program by participating pipeline companies will have a custom webpage, however, that does not mean that there are no pipelines near your school. We encourage all school officials to conduct research to determine if any pipelines are located nearby. 

If your school was found in the search results, you may be requested to enter a password to view your custom school pipeline safety webpage.

Your custom webpage provides you with pipeline safety information that is specific to your school such as an aerial map showing the approximate location of the nearby pipeline, the pipeline operator information and emergency number, the product being transported and the minimum recommended evacuation distance. 

If you are not able to find your school listed on the website, there is still valuable information available to you. 

At the top of the homepage you will see tabs for various roles within a school. You can open the tab that is most appropriate to your role to review and download brochures, preplanning checklists, and other resources. You can now access many of these resources from the online Texas School Safety Center’s School Pipeline Safety Toolkit, as well.

Pipeline leaks and incidents are rare and it is unlikely that your school will ever experience a pipeline emergency. That’s because pipeline companies operate under strict regulations that ensure the integrity of their pipelines, and use advanced technologies to detect any areas needing repair, and inspect pipeline rights of way by physically walking the pipeline and conducting fly-overs.

But if there is a leak or other pipeline emergency, you need to take immediate action by:

1. Calling 911 to report a potential pipeline problem

2. Calling the pipeline emergency number

3. Working with the pipeline company and emergency responders in a coordinated response

If you determine that there is a pipeline near your school, we recommend that you obtain the emergency number, keep it on-hand with your other school emergency numbers, as well as storing it in your mobile phone.

You will also want to find out other important information about the pipeline near your school including the:

• Distance and direction of the pipeline from your school 

• The product being transported in the pipeline 

• The minimum recommended evacuation distance… or potential impact radius of the pipeline

School officials should be diligent in identifying and in reporting any suspected pipeline problems as a proactive measure on behalf of student safety. All school administrators, teachers and bus drivers should know what actions to take in the event of a pipeline emergency.

If a leak occurs, take the appropriate actions in reporting and responding to the potential pipeline emergency by: 

• Refraining from anything that could be an ignition source. This includes anything with an off and on switch, classroom lights, mobile phones, and PA systems. 

• Working with the pipeline company and emergency responders in a coordinated response. Since vehicles can create an ignition source, it is imperative that you do not evacuate by vehicle unless advised by emergency responders that the conditions are safe to do so. 

In the event of an evacuation, (either on foot or by vehicle) refer to the minimum recommended evacuation distance and travel in the opposite direction of the pipeline, uphill and upwind if possible.

How can you tell if the pipeline is leaking? With three senses: “Smell, Sight, and Sound.”

Pipelines carry natural gas, petroleum gas, petroleum liquids and other hazardous materials.

Any unintended pipeline release is a serious situation.  The products contained in the pipelines are highly flammable and easily ignited by heat or sparks.  

Vapors will form an explosive mixture with the surrounding air.  They can also displace oxygen and cause asphyxiation in confined areas.  

Contact with the skin may cause burns or frostbite.  The degree of hazard depends on the volume of product being released. 

If you know what to look for, a pipeline leak can be easily recognized.  Small leaks may create areas of dead vegetation or areas of melted snow in the winter.  Larger leaks will act differently depending on the product being transported in the pipeline.  

Petroleum liquids will pool on the ground, create sheen on the surface of water, and will have an odor like petroleum or gasoline.  Leaking natural gas may cause a hissing or roaring sound along with blowing dirt from a hole in the ground.  

Liquefied petroleum gas is very similar to natural gas, except for the fact that it is heavier than air and will collect in low areas.  Very large petroleum gas leaks will create a white vapor cloud that may look like smoke.  

Any of these signs are an indication that an emergency exists.  Action should be taken immediately:

• Avoid any action that may create a spark

• Do NOT start vehicles, switch lights, or hang up phones

• Evacuate the area on foot in an upwind and/or uphill direction if possible

• Alert others to evacuate the area and keep people away

• From a safe location, call 911 to report the emergency

• Call the pipeline operator and report the event

• Wait for emergency responders to arrive

• Do NOT attempt to operate any pipeline valves

Natural gas does not naturally have an odor. However, some natural gas pipelines are odorized for public safety which includes most distribution lines. But did you know that the odorizatoin of natural gas lines, for public safety, started right here in Texas? 

New London Texas, was known as the richest independent school district in the United States. Due to its oil wealth, the district was able to construct a state-of-the-art, for its time, school to house grades K-11.

On March 18, 1937 students prepared for an Inter-scholastic meet in Henderson. Then, at 3:17 p.m., an instructor in the shop class turned on a sanding machine which sparked. In an instant, a good part of the building disintegrated with an explosion that could be heard for miles. Almost 300 students and teachers died in the blast. The spark had ignited odorless natural gas that had leaked from a pipeline and accumulated in a crawl space beneath the school.

Following the tragedy, a surviving child petitioned the Texas Legislature to pass a bill requiring the addition of a malordorant to natural gas that provides the common rotten-egg smell that has served as a critical public safety element ever since.    

If you smell the natural gas warning smell or, see, or hear ANYTHING unusual near a pipeline, call 911, the pipeline emergency number, and then carry out the requests of the pipeline company and emergency responders. 

How do you know the location of nearby pipelines?

Pipeline markers. Pipeline markers typically look like the markers shown here, though they can vary in size and color combinations.

Pipeline markers identify the pipeline company’s name and phone number, as well as the contents being transported.

However, pipeline markers do not tell you exactly where the pipeline is buried or how many pipelines are buried there. The pipeline may not be directly under the marker, but anywhere within the pipeline right of way. The markers also don’t tell you how deep the pipeline is buried. Due to soil erosion, it is possible that the pipeline may be quite close to the surface. 

You can check online for other pipelines near your school by visiting the National Pipeline Mapping System and the Texas Railroad Commission and utilizing their Public Map Viewers and by looking for nearby pipeline markers.

Pipelines can easily be damaged during digging. So ALWAYS call 811 before digging for ANY reason, whether you are planting trees or adding onto your campus. With 48-hour notice, the pipeline or utility owner will mark all underground lines at no cost.

You can be prepared for a pipeline emergency by:

• Visiting and reviewing videos, brochures and forms.

Developing a pipeline emergency response and evacuation plan in collaboration with your local pipeline operators and emergency responders.

Sharing this school pipeline safety video in staff meetings or in-service trainings with other school administrators, teachers and bus drivers. 

On behalf of the School Pipeline Safety Partnership and the Texas School Safety Center, thank you for your dedication to school AND pipeline safety.