The Most Important Safety Plan is the One you Don’t Have
Getting better-connected with the pipelines near your school
According to the Railroad Commission of Texas, the state is crisscrossed with over 439,771 miles of pipelines (the largest pipeline infrastructure in the Nation)1. Human error, like digging without calling 811 to have underground pipelines and utilities marked for safety beforehand, is still the leading cause of pipeline damages across the United States. According to the Common Ground Alliances’ annual DIRT Report, Texas leads the Nation, many times over, with 53,899 damages in 2016 alone2. Approximately one damage every nine minutes. Therefore, it is important for Texas schools to have relevant information and resources to keep students safe at school, along bus routes, athletic fields and during school events, where pipelines may be nearby.
“Look for the presence of pipeline markers and utilize online pipeline mapping tools”
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“It all starts with knowing...”
How do I know if there is a pipeline(s) near my school?
Here are some ways to determine if there is a pipeline near your school:
- Look for the presence of pipeline markers. If you see pipeline markers near your school and can access them, collect the pipeline company name, emergency number and product type for your records. Check if there is another marker in either direction, which should indicate the pipeline right-of-way. NOTE: Pipeline markers are used to mark the general location of pipelines but are not meant to identify the exact location, depth or represent the number of pipelines buried in the ground. Additionally, pipeline markers could be either knocked down or missing from the allotted area, so don’t rely on the presence of pipeline markers alone when determining the presence of nearby pipelines.
- Utilize online pipeline mapping tools. The National Pipeline Mapping System (shows transmission pipelines only)3 and the Railroad Commission of Texas’ GIS Viewer (shows transmission and gathering pipelines)4 are both accessible to the public and free of charge. The difficulty of navigating these map viewers is low and there are tutorial videos available for first-time users. NOTE: Distribution pipelines are not revealed in the online mapping tools provided here. In addition to utilizing online mapping tools, look for the presence of pipeline markers in your area. If your school is serviced by a gas company that transports products through nearby distribution pipelines, visit their website to review safety information and contact them to request additional information for school emergency planning.
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What is the most important information I should know about the pipeline(s) nearby?
- The approximate distance and direction of the pipeline from your school. You won’t know the exact location of the pipeline by looking at markers or maps, but it is still important that you know the approximate location of the pipeline. This information is used for determining if your school is within the impact radius of the pipeline and for emergency preplanning and response decision making.
- The pipeline company name and emergency number. If you suspect a pipeline leak in the future, you will need to call 911 and then the pipeline company. Having the number for the appropriate pipeline company beforehand can expediate the emergency response effort and help reduce consequences. Including the pipeline emergency number alongside your schools’ other critical emergency numbers is ideal.
- The product being transported in the pipeline. Since pipelines carry a variety of products from natural gas to crude oil, knowing the type of product being transported in a nearby pipeline can help you to be alert for certain kinds of smells, sounds or visual indications that could be signs of damages or leakage. Each product also has unique characteristics and hazards that you may encounter during an emergency.
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How can my school be prepared?
Include pipelines in your safety and security audit process. Even if it turns out that there are no pipelines nearby your school, including pipelines in your safety and security audits would improve your school’s safety because you would know possible risks, threats or hazards nearby your school.
Developing a pipeline-specific emergency response plan for your school is also critical to your school’s safety. When you identify a pipeline near your school, it is important to add the pipeline information to your emergency operations plan. This information may include the general distance and location, company name and emergency number, product type and picture or online map screenshot of the pipelines. The TxSSC’s pipeline annex toolkit is available as a template for recording and disseminating this information among your safety team. Additionally, conducting scenarios, drills or tabletop exercises can prepare your school to handle any future incidents. As with other types of emergencies, the best preparedness plan includes walking through the steps and dynamics of possible events. Collaborate with local emergency officials and the pipeline company to discuss possible direct or indirect impact to your school. Using appropriate response methods, mustering points and establishing two-way communication plans in advance before its needed is important. See the Developing a School Pipeline Emergency Response & Evacuation Plan Video resources for local emergency planning collaborations.
“Developing a pipeline-specific emergency response plan for your school is also critical to your school’s safety”
Finally, we recommend participating in training either in-person or online and helping train others. Also, watch for pipeline safety training opportunities being offered in your area and attend if possible. The TxSSC’s free online pipeline safety training is also available for School Officials, Transportation Directors/Bus Drivers and School-Based Law Enforcement. These brief, multi-media online training modules can be used by an individual or used to facilitate a small or large group session.
How can I help prevent a pipeline emergency?
School Officials and Bus Drivers alike, can help prevent damages to pipelines and possible pipeline emergencies by increasing vigilance around their facilities and along bus routes.
Ensure that anyone preforming work that involves digging has called 811 and has waited for underground pipeline and utilities to be properly marked. This includes volunteers, employees and contractors. The call is completely free and in Texas it is the law.
“School Officials and Bus Drivers alike, can help prevent damages to pipelines and possible pipeline emergencies by increasing vigilance around their facilities and along bus routes.”
Watch for and report risky digging activity on behalf of student safety. This could be indicated by a work site with no sign of colored flags or paint, which could mean that 811 may not have been notified. Risks posed to pipelines could be accidental or intentional and could pose an immediate risk to your school and the community. You can report your observation/concern by notifying 811, telling local law enforcement, or calling the phone number on any nearby pipeline marker.
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Access the Texas School Pipeline Safety Toolkit for comprehensive school pipeline safety resources. For questions, assistance or materials about this topic, please contact the Texas School Safety Center at (877) 304 – 2727 or submit a request for assistance through the TxSSC Contact Us Link. You can also contact the Danielle Dawn Smalley Foundation at Info@smalleyfnd.org or calling Toll Free 866-401-2800.
1Texas Railroad Commission. (2018). Pipeline Safety. Retrieved May, 2018, from http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/pipeline-safety/.
2Damage Information Reporting Tool. (2016). DIRT Report Interactive Analysis. Retrieved May, 2018, from http://commongroundalliance.com/dirt-2016-interactive-report.
3School Pipeline Safety Partnership. (2018). National Pipeline Mapping System. Retrieved May, 2018, from https://www.schoolpipelinesafety.org/national-pipeline-mapping-system-tutorial-video/.
4Texas Railroad Commission. (2018). Public GIS Viewer (Map). Retrieved May, 2018, from http://www.rrc.state.tx.us/about-us/resource-center/research/gis-viewers.