The primary purpose of this Emergency Plan is to share basic information with emergency responders. Northern Natural Gas employees may use this information while responding to a natural gas emergency. The plan provides general guidance to emergency responders and typical actions that Northern employees use for mobilization of personnel and resources, while continuing operation of facilities during an emergency in order to keep the public safe and minimize gas service interruptions.
Emergency Responders - General Guidance
Emergency responders such as police, fire, sheriff, state patrol and others are often the first to learn of an incident involving Northern facilities. The following actions are offered as a guide:
- Notify the appropriate pipeline company. For a Northern facility dial toll free Northern’s 24-hour emergency call center, the Operations Communication Center (OCC) at: (888) 367-6671.
- Secure the area and control access to the site. Traffic barricades or re-routing may be required.
- If natural gas is leaking but not burning, avoid doing anything that may ignite it. Eliminate ignition sources such as vehicles, cell phones, pagers, two-way radios, electrical equipment, switches, door bells, flashlights, static electricity, cigarettes, etc.
- Evacuations or sheltering in place may be necessary.
- Be aware of weather conditions such as lightning storms and stay upwind.
- If the natural gas is burning, control secondary fires but do not attempt to put out pipeline fires.
- Do not operate pipeline valves.
- Provide medical assistance if safe to do so.
- Establish a command center. Northern field responders are accustomed to the basics of ICS/NIMS and will assign a local on-scene coordinator and on-scene safety officer at the incident site.
- The Northern emergency response management team located in the Omaha, Nebraska headquarters building uses a more robust level of ICS/NIMS, including an Incident Commander, Logistics Chief, Liaison Officer, etc.
- Northern uses a secure conference bridge to communicate with all groups as necessary during an incident.
Pipeline System Basics
Natural gas is the only product transported in pipelines operated by Northern.
Pipeline sizes range from 2 inches to 36 inches in diameter.
Pressures can exceed 1,000 pounds per square inch.
The maximum potential impact radius (PIR) is 800 feet.
An emergency is any situation demanding immediate corrective action involving Northern facilities or operations which may endanger human life, cause environmental damage, involve significant property damage or which may affect normal service to customers.
Emergencies may result from various events, including but not limited to the following:
- Leaking or blowing gas involving (or near) a pipeline or pipeline facility
- Gas detected inside or near a building.
- Fire or rupture located near, or directly involving, a pipeline or pipeline facility.
- A weather related incident such as:
- Wind storms
Any unusual situation whereby human life or significant property is endangered. One example might include hydrogen sulfide (H2S) issues.
Employees Receiving Emergency Calls
Most often, emergency calls for Northern are received by the emergency call center, the Operations Communication Center (OCC) because the toll free number (888) 367-6671 is listed on pipeline markers and facilities. Other contact methods may occasionally occur such as a call directly to a Northern employee or Northern’s gas control center.
The employee receiving an emergency call should:
- Remember that response actions should be directed toward protecting people first, environmental concerns and then property and service continuity.
- Call the OCC if not already involved. If appropriate, have the OCC establish a Conference Bridge to be used by all employee responders.
- The OCC can call the local sheriff’s office if local emergency responders have not yet been notified. Begin keeping a log of all significant events and contacts.
- Complete documentation as needed.
- Management, employees and the OCC work together to evaluate the information received to determine if an emergency exists, the type of emergency that exists, the responses necessary, the priority of action and then initiate whatever response actions are necessary.
Contact the nearest emergency response organizations, for example; fire/rescue, police, sheriff, highway patrol, or ambulance, if the nature of the emergency dictates their assistance. The OCC will make these notifications when requested.
Contact the appropriate employees in the affected area, utility companies, customers and others that may need to be involved. The OCC will make these notifications when requested.
Management provides guidance to assist with determination of actions that are required to bring the emergency situation under control.
Individual employee job assignments during an emergency will depend on the resources available and the nature of the emergency. The following actions will be determined and assigned by management and serve as a guide in preparing for the response:
- Provide engineering and technical support, monitor repair efforts to assure compliance with appropriate procedures.
- Assist with necessary customer contacts, isolate sales facilities and/or interrupt customer service and help coordinate restoration of customer service.
- Mobilize welding equipment and provide welding services.
- Accomplish material procurement and assist with communication/notification efforts.
- Mobilize heavy equipment and materials.
General Employee Guidance
The following items are some basic concepts that apply when handling any emergency situation:
- The first employee on the scene of an emergency assumes the role of on-scene coordinator; the second employee is the on-scene safety officer. At times, it may be necessary for one employee to fulfill both roles until additional assistance arrives.
- Management assumes the role of incident commander.
- Protect people first, environmental concerns, then facilities, property and service continuity.
- When it is safe to do so, seek medical attention for anyone who has been injured. Contact emergency responders for assistance. However, do not jeopardize additional lives or injuries to help persons already injured.
- When appropriate, evacuate unauthorized and non-essential personnel.
- Only authorized personnel should be allowed access to an emergency area. Local law enforcement authorities can provide assistance to implement this requirement.
- Remain calm and gather as much incident information as possible.
Control the Emergency Situation
- During a fire or gas leak, Northern will determine the best course of action to eliminate the fuel source.
- When natural gas is escaping, eliminate ignition sources as appropriate.
- Do not put your own safety in jeopardy. Wear the appropriate PPE before performing any functions to bring the situation under control.
- Use communications channels, such as telephones, cell phones, mobile radios, or satellite phones in conjunction with the OCC Conference Bridge for emergency related items only, to insure clear and open means of communications.
- Communicate with Local Distribution Company representatives.
- Provide for emergency shutdown and/or pressure reduction in any section of the pipeline system necessary to minimize hazards to life or property. When pipelines have incurred suspected damage by excavating equipment, reduce the pressure in the pipeline; conduct a leak survey before repair efforts continue.
- Complete necessary repairs and restore the situation to normal operations once safe.
Gas Detected Inside or Near a Building
When approaching any building that contains natural gas facilities or that may contain escaped gas, an employee should always look and listen for any signs of escaping gas. Under no circumstances should an employee immediately open a building door, if escaped gas is suspected.
- If leaking gas is detected in a building, assess the nature of the problem, the potential danger to life or property and the actions required to bring the situation under control. Under no circumstances should an employee enter a building with audible leaking gas, until backup assistance arrives, and air monitoring equipment has been used to determine that the area is safe for entry. Actions taken will depend on the employee’s assessment of the situation. General guidelines for responding to this type of emergency are as follows.
- Do not open any doors until air monitoring has been completed.
- Position vehicles upwind, preferably blocking access of others.
- Contact the OCC and request assistance. If requested, the OCC will contact appropriate public safety agencies and utilities. Information needed:
- Describe the condition
- Report the location
- Report the wind direction and estimated velocity.
- Dispatch a portable gas detector to the scene.
- Confirm that gas detector is calibrated.
- Evacuate people from near-by buildings as needed.
- Close roads and set up detours as needed using assistance of local law enforcement and highway/roads department.
- Arrange to shut off electrical power to the building and attempt to eliminate other potential ignition sources in the area containing gas. Some guidelines are:
- Prevent vehicles from entering the area. If vehicles are already in the area, do not attempt to move them or shut them off.
- Prevent smoking and other ignition sources.
- Do not use telephones, cell phones, pagers and radios in the hazardous area.
- Isolate the building from gas sources if possible.
- After gas sources are shut off, proceed to the building with a portable gas detector. Check door seams for an explosive mixture. If an explosive mixture is not found, stand behind and to the side of the door while opening. Insert only the gas detector probe into the building. If test results allow, enter and ventilate the building and determine the source of the detected gas.
- Once the source of the detected gas has been determined, contact the appropriate personnel to investigate, repair and return to service.
Fire or Rupture or Involving Northern Facilities
During natural gas fires and fires involving gas containing facilities, Northern personnel will need to partner with all responding emergency agencies to mutually determine the best course of action. Northern implements the Incident Command System protocol and the National Incident Management System to manage emergencies.
General procedures for responding to emergency incidents involving a pipeline rupture or fire are as follows.
- Keep to a safe distance. Secure the area. Restrict access, allow only trained personnel into the area.
- Contact the OCC with the following information:
- A description of the situation.
- The location of the fire or rupture and your relative location.
- Report any known injuries.
- Report estimated extent of facility damage.
- An assessment of whether Northern personnel can manage the situation.
- Request appropriate assistance.
- Upon request, the OCC will:
- Notify appropriate emergency response agencies, including law, fire and rescue departments as needed.
- Assist with dispatching of Northern personnel and equipment.
- Coordinate off-site activities and monitor communications.
- Evacuate any adjacent facilities or buildings that may be endangered. If need be, wait for assistance to arrive to help with the evacuations.
- If the fire is due to escaping gas or some similar flammable material, eliminate the flammable fuel source, if possible, before attempting to fight the fire.
- Proceed to extinguish the fire if it can be done safely. Use whatever firefighting equipment is available and use the proper firefighting techniques.
- If the fire is to be contained by a fire department, and the fire involves escaping gas or facilities, Northern employees should work closely with the fire department to mutually determine the best course of action.
- In some cases, it may be desirable to let the fire burn out by itself, because of escaping gas or comparable flammable material.
Weather Related Incidents Such as a Tornado
Certain weather conditions are conducive to the formation of tornadoes. When such weather conditions exist, Company personnel should be alert and on the lookout for an actual occurrence. Most tornadoes occur during April, May and June in Northern’s area of responsibility.
When weather conditions are such that a tornado could form:
- Have personnel with conventional radios tune to local radio stations, to monitor weather information.
Weather alert reminders:
watch means atmospheric conditions are favorable.
warning means a tornado has been sighted.
- If safe to do so, during extreme weather conditions, assign an observer to monitor conditions for increasing severe weather or possible tornado sightings.
- If a tornado is sighted, notify all affected personnel. Take the following actions as time allows.
- Remember to protect life first.
- Notify the OCC if it becomes necessary to seek shelter. Advise them that communications may be disrupted in your area.
- Extinguish all unnecessary fires and lights.
- In a compressor station, switch over to auxiliary power.
- Do not trip the Emergency Shut Down (ESD) system. It will function automatically if a fault occurs. Leave facilities in operation and seek shelter.
- Personnel operating a vehicle when a tornado approaches should:
- Drive at right angles away from the tornado if possible.
- If the tornado cannot be avoided, seek shelter in a ditch or other low-lying area, if below ground shelter is not available.
- Avoid locations under electric power lines.
- After the storm has passed and if damage has occurred:
- Survey the damage.
- If not already activated, trip ESD’s as needed to isolate portions of the facilities that have been damaged.
- Notify the OCC that the storm has passed. Provide the following information:
- A description of the situation.
- Report any known injuries.
- Report estimated extent of facility damage.
- Proceed with any repairs or other actions that are required.
- Supply the customers with volume bottles if appropriate.
- If possible, switch small numbers of users to alternate fuels such as propane.
- Arrange for shelters or other temporary housing if appropriate.
Is your group or agency interested in a presentation or additional information? Call our emergency number at (888) 367-6671 and ask to establish a public education liaison. Together we will determine the appropriate Northern field location nearest you and then provide a means to contact their local representative for more details.