School Pipeline Safety Toolkit
4.0 Leak Recognition and Response
Pipeline leaks are serious situations. If your school is located near a pipeline it is imperative that your school safety plan includes clear guidance on how to recognize and respond to a pipeline problem. Know how to quickly respond to a potential pipeline emergency and familiarize your staff, including bus drivers, on how to do the same.
Use your sense of smell, sight and sound to identify a potential pipeline leak. Indications of a leak may include:
- SMELL: Strong petroleum scent or other pungent odor, a smell similar to rotten eggs, or sulfur, if odorant is added. (not all pipeline products have a smell)
- SIGHT: Dead or dying vegetation near the pipeline, pools of liquid or fire on the ground near the pipeline, dirt or debris blowing into the air, fire or a dense white cloud or fog.
- SOUND: Hissing, gurgling or roaring sound. (not all pipeline leaks will make a sound)
If you suspect a leak near a pipeline right-of-way or aboveground facility:
- Leave the area immediately by foot, moving away from the pipeline in an upwind and uphill (if possible) direction.
- Recommended evacuation distance is determined by the pipeline product, size and pressure. Schools that have been enrolled into the School Pipeline Safety Partnership by a participating pipeline company can view maps and evacuation distance recommendations on their school’s pipeline safety information page. All other schools can contact their local pipeline operator to discuss recommended evacuation distances.
- Non-emergency contact information for pipeline operators near your school can be found through the National Pipeline Mapping System (NPMS).
- Do not operate school buses, or any vehicles, mechanical equipment, cellular phones, electronic devices or any item that could create a spark near a suspected pipeline leak. Do not light a match and avoid breathing or coming in physical contact with liquids or gases coming from the pipeline.
- From a safe location, call 911 and the pipeline operators’ emergency number. If the pipeline operator is unknown, you can call 911 and then call 811 for help notifying local pipeline operators.
Bus Driver Guidelines
In the event of a pipeline leak near a school facility, bus drivers may be called upon to evacuate students from the leak area. Proactively locate pipeline right-of-ways on bus routes to help drivers recognize signs of a pipeline problem.
If you are on a bus route and suspect a pipeline problem:
- Refrain from driving in a suspected leak area
- If in a suspected leak area, leave the engine “as is”, unload the bus and leave the area immediately, moving by foot in an upwind and uphill direction if possible.
- Avoid use of anything that could create a spark, including mobile phones/devices and hand-held radios, until you are a safe distance from the hazards.
If you have been called in to evacuate a school due to a potential pipeline emergency:
- First, ensure that it is safe to bring a vehicle into the area by communicating with the first responders and pipeline operators involved. A bus can be an ignition source, like any other vehicle, for flammable vapors that may be in the atmosphere.
- Take a route that is in the opposite direction of the pipeline, upwind if possible, and avoid roads that parallel or intersect with the pipeline. Sometimes there can be more than one leak on a pipeline.
- Arrive at a destination that is a safe distance from the impact zone of the pipeline release. Once at a safe location, call for medical assistance if needed.