WESTON — Local first responders and professionals from the oil and gas industry attended a mock gas-line strike demonstration at the West Virginia State Fire Academy near Weston on Tuesday.
The mock strike, performed by volunteers, gave attendees a visual example of the dangers that can arise on a job site if workers fail to follow proper safety procedures when digging near a buried gas pipeline.
The demonstration was broken into two parts: The right way and the wrong way.
During the first run of the mock strike, workers followed all the rules and took all necessary precautions before digging, including properly marking the line’s location, placing a call to West Virginia 811 and waiting for a site inspector to verify the location.
Things didn’t go so smoothly the second time around. The workers didn’t check to see if a line was present.
And one of the workers even stepped away to take a phone call.
While his back was turned, a worker operating an excavator proceeded to dig and shortly struck an active gas line causing a simulated cloud of thick white smoke to rise up and cover the area.
After a call to 911, firefighters arrived on the scene and used a fire house to suppress the smoke. Paramedics arrived shortly after and treated the workers affected by the line break.
Madison Mason, director of sales for Enertech, the company that put on the mock strike, said the demonstrations are intended to help workers and first responders realize the importance of following proper procedures.
“It simulates what happens if you do have a gas strike, or it could be a crude strike with liquids,” he said. “This is going to give the audience a visual of what they need to do coming on the scene. The main message out of this is for people to call West Virginia 811. If you call before you dig, you can prevent these types of incidents from happening. It’s simple and it’s free. You just dial 8-1-1 or go online to wv811.com and put your call in online as well.”
Enertech puts on similar demonstrations across the country for groups of professionals, Mason said.
“Enertech focuses on public awareness programs, and we also focus on liaison meetings where we bring together the operators and the emergency officials and public officials so they can get that face-to-face interaction,” he said. “That gives them that personal touch, so if you ever do have an incident, they know who to call, where they are located and what capabilities that they have.”
Rich Swiger, a technical specialist with Dominion Energy, said having a live demonstration is much more impactful than just handing out a pamphlet or sitting through a lecture on safety.
“We are actually required by law to do liaisons with our emergency responders,” he said. “To us, we feel that it’s better to do a scenario like this versus just meeting with someone in a classroom and kind of going through what ifs. We do that too. But we do a couple of these supplemental activities just to kind of give them the visual picture of exactly what it might look like.”
Staff Writer Charles Young can be reached at 304-626-1447 or [email protected]