TO REPORT A PIPELINE EMERGENCY CALL: 1-888-814-0188
Recognizing a Pipeline Leak
Because of potential hazards it is important to be able to recognize a pipeline leak. A pipeline leak may display the following signs:
- A pool of liquid on the ground near a pipeline, a dense white cloud or fog over a pipeline, or discolored vegetation surrounding the pipeline; an unusual dry spot in an otherwise moist field; bubbling in marshland, rivers or creeks, or an oily sheen appearing on water surfaces may be signs of a leak.
- An unusual noise coming from the pipeline, such as a hissing or a roaring sound, may be a sign of a leak.
- An unusual smell or gaseous odor will sometimes accompany a pipeline leak.
- Frozen ground at the pipeline in warm weather.
- Dirt blowing up from the ground.
Pipeline companies regularly inspect their right-of-ways using air, foot and vehicle patrols. These trained inspectors look for potential danger to pipelines, such as construction activity, as signs of gas or liquids leaks.
What to Do When a Leak Occurs
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- Immediately leave the area.
- Abandon any equipment being used in or near the suspected leak.
- From a safe location, call 911 or your local emergency response number and the pipeline company. Call collect, if needed, and give your name, phone number, description of the leak and its location.
- Warn others to stay away when possible.
What NOT to Do When a Leak Occurs
- Do not touch, breathe or make contact with the leaking liquids. Stay upwind if possible.
- Do not light a match, start an engine, use a telephone, turn on or off light switches or do anything that may create a spark.
- Do not attempt to extinguish any pipeline fire that may start.
- Do not drive into a leak or vapor cloud area. Automobile engines may ignite the vapors.
- Do not attempt to operate valves.
Emergency Action Procedures for Public Safety Officials
Public safety officials know to take whatever steps are deemed necessary to safeguard the public in the event of a pipeline emergency. These suggestions are offered only as a guide:
- Secure the area around the leak to a safe distance. This could include evacuating people from homes, businesses, schools, and other locations, as well as erecting barricades to control access to the emergency site and similar precautions. Some pipeline emergencies may make going outdoors dangerous. In these circumstances sheltering in place may be the safest course of action.
- If the pipeline leak is not burning, take steps to prevent ignition. This could include prohibiting smoking, rerouting traffic, and shutting off the electricity and residential gas supply.
- If the pipeline is burning, try to prevent the spread of fire but do not attempt to extinguish it. Burning petroleum products will not explode but if the fire is extinguished, gas and vapor may collect and could explode when reignited by secondary fires.
- Contact the pipeline company as quickly as possible. Pipeline marker signs show the pipeline company’s name, emergency telephone number, and pipeline contents.
- Public safety personnel unfamiliar with the pipeline involved in the emergency should not attempt to operate any of the valves on the pipeline. Improperly operating the pipeline valves could escalate the situation and cause other accidents to occur.
Pipeline Operator’s Actions During an Emergency
The pipeline operator will immediately dispatch personnel to the site to help handle the emergency and to provide information to public safety officials to aid their response to the emergency. They will also take the necessary operating actions such as starting and stopping pumps, closing and opening valves, and similar steps to minimize the impact of the situation.
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