The National Association of State Fire Marshals (NASFM), working in cooperation with the Interstate Natural Gas Association of America (INGAA) and important pipeline industry operators across the country, announced they successfully completed the first in what will be a series of regional conferences entitled Energy Emergencies: What’s Next in Response Planning? Hosted at Spectra Energy’s Houston Learning Auditorium in late September, the two-day meeting brought together first responders, state fire marshals, industry representatives and key government officials in pipeline safety to discuss cooperation and communication. Never before had all of these important voices gathered to discuss openly the challenges facing pipeline transportation and possible emergency situations.
The regions state fire marshals’ offices, pipeline operators, and officials from the United States Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration partnered with some of the most respected first responders and hazardous materials safety trainers in the country to offer insight on how to improve emergency response for potential pipeline accidents. In addition, NASFM highlighted their recently released second edition of the Pipeline Emergencies training program. The updated and comprehensive curriculum is now available electronically to all first responders across the U.S. at no charge. “The opportunity to bring together all of these experts in one room was just amazing,” stated Jim Narva, executive director of NASFM and a former Wyoming State Fire Marshal. “The quality of the conversation will really help us achieve our goal of enhancing communication between responders and industry on issues of importance to both groups.”
The overwhelming success of this conference indicated the need for similar meetings across the country in key states where pipelines are important modes of transporting America’s energy. “The dialog between operators, fire service and emergency agencies was extremely valuable to the future of pipeline emergencies and transportation. One of the many topics that took center stage was communication between pipeline operators and local Fire Departments, particularly the Volunteers,” said Tim La Fuente, a representative of the Texas State Fire Marshal’s office who attended the conference.
To ensure emergency responders were able to attend, the pipeline industry provided generous travel scholarships for the conference. “Keeping emergency responders safe and protecting lives and resources are priorities for NASFM,” Narva said in his comments to conference attendees. “We thank the industry for also being committed to these goals. It was so important to have all voices represented here.” More conferences of this type are planned for 2012 and will be developed around this format of cooperation and education.