Planned site will promote training for 1st responders

Date: June 14, 2011

Ground broken for training center which will provide emergency personnel with a realistic view of what they may encounter at a wide range of gas industry facilities.

For many first responders, arriving at a gas industry emergency may be the first time they ever set foot on a drilling site. Such sites present many hazards and challenges rarely encountered by local emergency personnel.

On Monday, ground was broken on a proposed training site to change that.

Pennsylvania College of Technology, the state Fire Academy, Lycoming County and the gas industry are partnering to create the Natural Gas Applied Technology and Safety Training Center, which will provide emergency personnel with a realistic view of what they may encounter at a wide range of gas industry facilities.

The proposed facility will be built on a five-acre parcel at the college’s Schneebeli Earth Science Center in Clinton Township.

It will contain equipment and structures typically found at gas industry facilities that can be used to create scenarios with which firefighters and other first responders can train.

“This is specific to the natural gas industry,” said Tracy L. Brundage, managing director of the college workforce development and continuing education. “All of the props are going to be natural gas-related. (Emergency personnel) will see things that might be seen on a gas pad.”

According to Brundage, the facility will contain “live fire props” to be used to train firefighters on how to deal with actual fires, and “static props” to be used for exercises dealing with non-fire emergencies such as confined space rescues.

Brundage said she worked closely with Craig Konkle, who heads the county Community Gas Drilling Task Force Safety Committee and is county Department of Public Safety’s energy development emergency response coordinator, to shepherd the project to fruition.

They worked to determine if a need existed for such a facility, if it was economically feasible to construct it and whether the gas industry would support it, Brundage said, adding that the answer to those questions was “yes.”

The Pennsylvania Independent Oil and Gas Association, a consortium of energy producers in the state, threw its support behind the project. With the organization’s help, the project received donations of money and equipment from the industry, she said.

The college provided land and staff time toward the project, she said.

College President Dr. Davie Jane Gilmour said the facility, which should be up and running in October, will provide “hands-on instruction to help emergency responders understand and effectively respond to incidents they might encounter at gas field drilling and production sites.”

“While our emergency responders are highly competent in conventional firefighting and emergency response, many have very little formal training or experience with the unique challenges and hazards posed by gas field emergencies,” Gilmour said. “Here, they will learn to deal effectively with chemicals and equipment specific to the industry.”

Gilmour added that current industry workers and new hires may also benefit by training at the facility. The facility will be available to emergency responders from throughout the state, she said.

The college and Penn State Cooperative Extension partnered in 2008 to form the Marcellus Shale Education and Training Center, a program devoted to preparing local workers with skills needed to enter the gas industry work force. Jeffery Lorson, who is the director of the center, also will oversee operations at the new training center.

According to Lorson, instructors at the facility will be contract instructors, college staff and industry experts.

State Sen. Eugene Yaw, R-Loyalsock Township, said an emergency exercise hosted two years ago at a gas well site by Range Resources attracted about 125 volunteer firefighters.

“It indicated there was a need for this type of training,” Yaw said, adding that the collaborative effort to create the training center is “something that will pay dividends here.”

State Fire Commissioner Ed Mann said he does not see the facility as competition for the state Fire Academy. Mann said he would like to see similar facilities in all counties where gas industry activities are occurring.

Mann said his main goals are to provide emergency responders with the tools and training they need to do their jobs, and to ensure those responders are able, at the end of the day, to go home to their families.

“That’s what this facility will do,” Mann said.

Lou D’Amico, president of the oil and gas association, said Pennsylvania has 150 years of oil and gas extraction experience. In spite of that long history, the training facility will be the first of its kind in the state, D’Amico said.

The need for that type of training has always been needed, but the spotlight on the development of the Marcellus Shale provided the impetus for developing the training center, he said.

D’Amico said it is fitting the center is being built in the county because it has been the most proactive in the state, creating a gas drilling task force and visiting a shale play in Texas in an effort to understand the issues and benefits of gas exploration.

“This is a milestone event for the industry and the emergency response community,” said Larry L. Michael, college Workforce and Economic Development executive director. “It’s an opportunity to provide training opportunities in the commonwealth for hands-on training that is greatly needed.”

Source: Williamsport Sun-Gazette


Joe Price
Attorney Joe Price is a seasoned Trial Lawyer serving Northeast, Central and Southeast Pennsylvania for the past forty (40) years. He has handled serious personal injury cases in courts throughout the Federal system including New Jersey and New York. Attorney Price is A.V. Rated by Martindale Hubble. He is Board Certified in Civil Practice by the National Board of Trial Advocacy since 1996.