AGL Gas Regulator Station Emergency Plan

Emergency preparedness plan tested at AGL Shalimar Regulator Station

Chamblee, GA, January 9, 2015 – by Cheryl Huvard and Lori Muskat – Despite frigid temperatures, a full contingent was on hand the morning of January 8th, 2015, for a Joint Field Exercise held mutually among Atlanta Gas Light – Peachtree Service Center, DeKalb Fire Department, DeKalb Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), and the Chamblee Police Department. The purpose of the exercise was to provide first responders with information about the particular challenges presented by the AGL Shalimar Regulator Station site and natural gas transmission pipeline, and to inform area residents about the duties and capabilities of the various emergency response teams.

After a brief introduction, the scenario of a gas leak caused by a construction crew backhoe was enacted. This scenario was chosen because it is common among many gas leak incidents involving lower pressure distribution lines.  In actuality, the Shalimar site involves a 24” diameter gas transmission line and a regulator station, which transport natural gas at much higher pressures. 

Although the enacted scenario would be improbable at the Shalimar site because transmission line incidents are more likely to be caused by equipment failure, the exercise served the important purpose of furthering communication and coordination of AGL emergency response personnel and local emergency responders.

As enacted, the construction crew causing the distribution line damage called in a report of the leak to the AGL hotline, upon which report the first responders were notified and sprang into the actions they have pre-planned for such events. Fire rescue and police arrived within 10 minutes of notification.

In case of a natural gas leak, the planned action is to create a cordoned-off area determined by a radius a specified number of feet from the source of the leak or incident, in this case 500 to 1000 feet. Fire units would be stationed at primary and secondary fire water sources; emergency management personnel would analyze the conditions and determine necessary further actions; and police would direct evacuation and handle traffic management issues.

An AGL emergency response unit would be sent to the site to handle the gas line shutdown and line blowoff, and to stabilize the site. During this exercise, the AGL team arrived 51 minutes after it was notified. First responder personnel said that approximately an hour is a typical response time for these units. Should there be a leak at the Shalimar regulator station, the upstream valve at the LaVista station would be closed by remote action, and the line would be cleared by allowing the gas to vent through the Shalimar station vent stacks.

The Shalimar Regulator Station and the AGL transmission line both are controlled by a SCADA (supervisory control and data acquisition) system. A SCADA system is a system operating with coded signals over communication channels so as to provide control of remote equipment. The exercise provided all first responders with the understanding of where the valve shutoff would occur and how long it would take to clear the line of gas. According to the AGL response team, it takes around 10 minutes for the line “blow-down”.

Residents in attendance were greatly reassured by the professionalism of the DeKalb and Chamblee personnel. Chief Donny Williams and Detective Ray Ice of the Chamblee Police; Battalion Chief Shane Dobson and Deputy Chief Norman Augustin from Dekalb County Fire and Rescue were especially responsive to residents’ questions and concerns.

Trevor Quander from AGL was helpful and informative, and the AGL public relations contingent was on hand in force to ensure that AGL’s messaging was consistent with AGL’s public obligations and responsibilities.

Area residents are grateful, in particular, to Tom Hogan, Chamblee City Councilman, whose support, interest, and participation gave validation and credence to the safety concerns expressed by residents since the construction of the Shalimar Regulator Station began. He initiated Chamblee’s advocacy of the safety initiatives and continues to provide support and encouragement to area residents for better monitoring and control of the siting of such installations.

Thanks to our friends at The Chamblee Post for publishing this story.

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