Breaking a natural gas line could happen to anyone when they are digging, and it can have dangerous consequences. While rupturing a gas line is usually associated with construction, it could happen to anyone. Rupturing gas lines and other types of underground lines happens rather frequently in Texoma.
“I think there was one just a few days ago. I don’t have the exact number, but it is increasing. There’s a lot of lines underground and they may not just be pipelines. They are hitting fiber optics and all sorts of different lines,” said John Henderson, the emergency preparedness coordinator for Wichita Falls.
Anytime someone is digging with equipment, even someone working in their backyard, they need to know where all gas lines are because hitting one could rupture the line.
“You’ve got gathering, transmission and distribution lines,” said John Sparks, the director of damage prevention for Texas 811. “Distribution lines are the majority of the time what is going to affect your homeowner or weekend warrior, as far as renting equipment or something along those lines. All three are critical to protect and critical to avoid. The state law does apply to not only homeowners but excavators and anyone planning on doing any type of excavation.”
On top of a $1000 to $2500 fine, rupturing a line cam be very dangerous to the person who does it and can affect others in the area.
“The worst-case scenario is to strike something that could asphyxiate an operator,” Henderson said. “When you damage a gas line it may be running a business, so you are damaging somebody’s livelihood. It may be down for an hour, but we have seen pipelines down for days.”
The main goal of demonstrations like this is awareness of the lines and most importantly safety.
“Safety is the number one goal for us,” Sparks said. “More than anything also just make sure there are reporting guidelines. You do have to report it. You do have to call 8-1-1. We also want to show how emergency response officials have to go through the steps they have to go through to respond to events like this.”
Hopefully, demonstrations like this will help reduce the number of ruptured lines, which will reduce injuries and help conserve the resources of first responders. If you are planning any kind of project where you have to dig, and there may be some kind of line in the area you are going to dig in call 811 a couple of days before you start. If you want more information on how 811 works you can find it here.