The United States is crisscrossed with over 2.3 million miles of underground pipelines that are used to transport materials such as natural gas, liquid petroleum gas, crude oil, refined products, and other hazardous materials. Pipelines are essential and vital components of our nation’s economy.
Since we estimate that approximately one in every 20 schools in the United States is located within a half-mile of an underground pipeline, virtually every district includes schools that are located within a pipeline’s impact zone. In many cases, these underground pipelines cross school parking lots or are located near buildings or athletic facilities. And yet, quite often pipeline facilities and operations are overlooked when assessing risks in the school community.
Pipeline emergencies are rare, but when they do happen can be a public event, often being referred to as “low occurrence but high consequence”. That’s why if a pipeline emergency occurs it requires immediate and coordinated response efforts to protect students, staff, property and the environment. District administrators are encouraged to identify the schools in their district that are located within a half-mile of pipelines and aboveground pipeline facilities and to work with those schools to assure that their safety procedures adequately address procedures for identifying and responding to a pipeline emergency. In addition, districts are encouraged to periodically practice pipeline emergency response procedures just like they do for other emergency response protocols.
If your school is located within a half-mile of a pipeline, the following recommendations can help assure that your school is prepared to respond appropriately:
- Familiarize staff and students with the location of nearby pipelines. Refer to “Find Pipelines Near Your School“
- Know how to recognize the signs of a potential pipeline problem and how to respond. Refer to “Leak Recognition & Response Guidance” for more information. Download and distribute our School Pipeline Safety brochure for quick at-a-glance safety information.
- Review your school’s safety and evacuation plans and incorporate procedures for appropriately responding to a pipeline emergency. Download the Safety Plan Checklist for a list of pipeline information that we encourage you to collect and include in your plans as well as resources for obtaining that information.
- Review pipeline awareness materials for bus drivers and talk with your district transportation director to ensure your school’s drivers have appropriate training. Refer to the Pipeline Safety for School Bus Drivers Brochure for more information.
- Maintain a heightened sense of vigilance in identifying risks to nearby pipelines including unmarked digging activity or environmental changes and alert the pipeline company or law enforcement to prevent a pipeline emergency on behalf of student safety. Refer to “Protecting Pipelines and Schools” for more information.