After a vehicle struck a farm tap during the January snowstorm, Cartersville Gas System used a similar scenario for a joint training day with Atlanta Gas Light.
“The scenario that we had was that someone ran off the road and hit a farm tap and so somebody was driving down the road, heard noise, was smelling gas and they called Atlanta Gas Light, which then notified 911,” said Cartersville Gas System Director Gary Riggs. “Our fire department came out and their protocol is, as soon as they get a gas call, possible gas leak, they call us. Both systems have responded and they set up incident command with the fire department here. It’s really a test of all the procedures being followed.”
Demonstrations on risers near homes showed how interior plastic pipes may melt. Atlanta Gas Light also showed how a dual pump system can pinch off a line by squeezing a large-diameter pipe to shut off gas.
Covering 315 miles of distribution mains to more than 10,000 customers, Cartersville Gas System is the fifth-largest municipal-owned gas system in the state.
“In this particular scenario, what made it unique is that we share a border with the city of Cartersville gas. … It’s the first one that we’ve held in the state of Georgia where we’ve partnered with a municipality or a city-owned gas to practice this,” said Patrick Flynn, crisis manager with Atlanta Gas Light.
Founded in 1856, AGL now serves 1.5 million residents in Georgia.
“In the state of Georgia we are required by the Public Service Commission to hold one [exercise like Thursday’s] per year. While that’s the regulatory requirement, we value the benefit of these, the public-private partnerships, so our goal is hold one at each of our major locations or service territories throughout the year, so we might hold as many as seven at any given time just in the state Georgia,” Flynn said.
Riggs said training such as this week’s is a refresher for protocol for situations that you can’t predict. “It reminds everybody what they need to do.”
For Flynn, the day slows down the procedures of an actual gas system incident.
“… Periodically a line is hit by the contractor and the road is closed and the fire department arrives on the scene and a call’s been made to us, but everything’s real-time and fast and you kind of do your job and get back to your normal job so to speak,” he said. “What this benefits, it allows us to slow it down, it allows the fire department to ask the gas company what we are doing and why we do it and vice versa. … All those questions you never get to ask during the real thing.”
Cartersville and Bartow County fire departments were on scene Thursday as well. During the latter portion of the morning, AGL and Cartersville Gas System lit a riser, both with and without a regulator.
“We can take that regulator off because if it burns long enough the diaphragm in the regulator will melt and it will start blowing at 30 pounds,” Riggs said. “Out on our high-pressure system, which is 300 pounds, we have a regulator that drops that pressure from 300 to 30 and then the 30 goes to the service regulator at the house, which drops it to a quarter pound to go into the house.”
The difference was obvious. The initial blaze with the regulator was a small, low blaze with little noise. However, when the regulator was removed, the blaze climbed more than 6 feet in height and the rushing noise of the gas was audible yards away.
Although the training was centered around a vehicle accident, most gas leaks occur when lines are pierced during digging.
“The most common cause [of gas leaks] is a contractor working in an area and digging and failing to either locate the gas, calling 811 … and it’s striking a gas line of that nature,” Flynn said.
For more information on Cartersville Gas System, call 770-387-5642. To report leaks, odors or emergencies to AGL, dial 877-427-4321. Before digging, call 811 to locate gas lines.