Pipeline emergency response forum with logo

Pipeline Emergency Response

One of PHMSA’s strategies for reducing the consequences of pipeline failures is to strengthen the capabilities of local emergency responders with targeted planning and training, increased coordination, and greater accountability.  PHMSA has undertaken a variety of initiatives and activities with the goal of institutionalizing pipeline awareness within the emergency response community.

Pipeline Emergency Response Forum

On December 9, 2011, the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA), the National Association of Pipeline Safety Representatives (NAPSR), and the United States Fire Administration (USFA) held an Emergency Responder Forum at the U.S. Department of Transportation headquarters, 1200 New Jersey Ave, SE, Washington, DC .   The public forum addressed several recent pipeline incidents that revealed firefighters and other emergency responders in some communities might not have the information they need to adequately prepare for and respond to significant natural gas and hazardous liquid pipeline emergencies.   The forum’s objective was to initiate the development of a strategy for improving emergency responders' ability to prepare for and respond to pipeline emergencies. Over 150 leaders from the emergency response community, the government, and the pipeline industry were in attendance. Please reference the Emergency Response Forum agenda for more information.

One of the primary lessons learned from the forum was that there are existing tools, methods, and resources that PHMSA and the pipeline industry can leverage.  For example, the chemical industry and other modes of hazardous materials transportation, including rail and highway, have established effective strategies and processes for preparing emergency responders to safely and effectively respond to hazardous materials incidents.  PHMSA can and should use these existing strategies and processes to engage the emergency response community on pipeline safety issues.

Summary of Proceedings

You can view the Summary of Proceedings.


To view the webcast, please click here. If you are experiencing problems with the archived webcast, please click here to download the full version.


Building Partnerships and Coordinating with Pipeline Emergency Response Stakeholders

One way PHMSA can accomplish its pipeline emergency response goals is through building partnerships with organizations that have similar goals.  These organizations have the expertise, resources, and stakeholder relationships required to advance our common objectives.  To that end, PHMSA’s Office of Pipeline Safety has developed partnerships with the following organizations:

  • Pipeline Emergency Response Working Group – PHMSA has convened a working group of emergency responders, pipeline operators, and regulators to develop a comprehensive strategy for institutionalizing pipeline safety knowledge in the emergency response community.  The working group meets regularly to discuss strategic objectives and implementation of the strategy.  For more information, contact Sam Hall at sam.hall@dot.gov.
  • The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM) – PHMSA has partnered with NASFM since 2002 to develop a variety of pipeline safety resources for emergency responders, including the Pipeline Emergencies training curriculum.
  • Transportation Community Awareness and Emergency Response (TRANSCAER®)TRANSCAER® is a voluntary national outreach effort that focuses on assisting communities to prepare for and to respond to a possible hazardous materials transportation incident. Members consist of volunteer representatives from the chemical manufacturing, transportation, distributor, and emergency response industries, as well as the government.  In the past, TRANSCAER® has focused primarily on rail and highway transportation, but has recently made a commitment to include pipelines in their training and outreach efforts.
  • The U.S. Fire Administration (USFA) – The USFA is under DHS and provides national leadership to foster a solid foundation for fire and emergency services stakeholders in prevention, preparedness, and response.  The USFA has offered a variety of resources to help PHMSA, including various outreach channels and the National Fire Academy’s training resources.
  • Georgia Pipeline Emergency Response Working Group – The Southern Region office has formed a working group of pipeline operators, emergency responders, and regulators to create a strategy that establishes and sustains effective two-way communication between emergency responders and the pipeline industry, develops a comprehensive training program for emergency responders to better understand the risk associated with pipeline facilities and to know how to properly respond to a pipeline incident, and develops a model that will work for Georgia and be transferrable to other states.  The group meets periodically to advance their goals.  For more information, contact Mike Khayata at michael.khayata@dot.gov.
  • Virginia Pipeline Hazard Mitigation Pilot Project – PHMSA is working with the Virginia Department of Emergency Management to pilot the inclusion of pipelines in Virginia’s hazard mitigation plans.  The work is focused on incorporating Pipelines and Informed Planning Alliance recommended practices into Virginia’s hazard mitigation plans.  For more information, contact Julie Halliday at julie.halliday@dot.gov.

Outreach to the Emergency Response Community
PHMSA has increased efforts to reach out to the emergency response community regarding pipeline safety.  Outreach activities have included writing articles for FireRescue Magazine and Fire Chief Magazine.  PHMSA also hosts booths and/or speaks at various emergency response conferences throughout the year.  PHMSA has been represented at the Fire Department Instructor’s Conference (FDIC) in Indianapolis, the HOTZONE conference in Houston, the Midwest Hazmat conference in Chicago, the Continuing Challenge conference in Sacramento, the International Association of Fire Chiefs hazmat conference in Baltimore, and many others.

Creating Resources
Several PHMSA efforts are underway to produce effective pipeline safety resources for the emergency response community.  For example, PHMSA has developed a simple brochure about existing PHMSA resources for emergency responders.  The brochure may be printed on the front and back of the same sheet of paper and folded in thirds.  The brochure describes:

PHMSA is also funding a Hazardous Materials Cooperative Research Program (HMCRP) project that will produce a guide for effective communication between pipeline operators and emergency responders. The guide should be available in calendar year 2013. 

In addition, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is considering making a variety of changes to their standards that will elevate the importance of pipelines in the training competencies of firefighters.

The Future
PHMSA’s approach to improving state and local pipeline emergency response capabilities is evolving quickly.  Success will be defined by creating sustainable and lasting results that institutionalize safe and effective pipeline emergency response in the emergency response community.  There is tremendous support for these goals among the emergency response community, the pipeline industry, pipeline regulators, and the public.  All of these stakeholders are committed to making real and lasting improvements.  For more information, contact Sam Hall at sam.hall@dot.gov.