On November 1, 2007, a 12-inch-diameter liquid propane pipeline segment operated by Dixie Pipeline Company ruptured near Carmichael, Mississippi. It is estimated that about 430,000 gallons of propane was released. The resulting gas cloud drifted over a nearby residential area and ignited. Two people were killed, seven were injured, and four houses were destroyed in the explosion. The property damage exceeded $3.3 million. The NTSB found in its investigation that the rupture was caused by a failure in a weld that caused the pipe to fracture along the longitudinal seam weld, a portion of the upstream girth weld, and portions of the adjacent pipe joints. The NTSB also stated in its investigation that Dixie Pipeline Company’s oversight and evaluation of the effectiveness of its public education programs were inadequate. Dixie Pipeline Company distributed safety literature to stakeholders as part of its public awareness program. However, the company found after the accident that 10 addresses in this rural area were missing from the list used to distribute the safety data. This safety data described the pipeline hazards and what residents should do in case of an emergency. These ten addresses included the houses of two residents who were killed and other houses that were destroyed. In addition, the NTSB stated that Dixie relied on a contractor to perform the mailings, and did not assess the effectiveness of its awareness program. Dixie did not conduct surveys to find out if the customers received the mailings or whether they understood the guidance. The NTSB also stated that 911 operators were not invited to be part of the company’s outreach program for emergency responders. As a result, these 911 operators may not have had the proper training to recognize the hazards associated with a large release of propane, and therefore they were unaware of the actions to take in an emergency of this magnitude. Although it did not affect this emergency, the NTSB also noted that a radio signal repeater for the fire department, the primary radio system for the county dispatch, was not working. Communications cables of the radio signal repeater had been inadvertently disconnected during routine housekeeping. Following the accident the county implemented regular tests of the communications equipment.
Lessons Learned: Training is certainly much easier to conduct if it is limited to the personnel in one organization. However, real emergencies often involve personnel from multiple organizations including fire departments, police departments, emergency dispatch units, and so on. A failure to include these personnel in training could result in an ineffective and inappropriate response to a disaster.
U.S. National Transportation Safety Board, “Rupture of Hazardous Liquid Pipeline With Release and Ignition of Propane, Carmichael, Mississippi, November 1, 2007,” Pipeline Accident Report NTSB/PAR-09/01, October 14, 2009.
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