Gas well emergency training to prepare first responders

CHARTIERS (AP) – Officials say a new half-million-dollar training center in western Pennsylvania will help prepare first responders in several states for emergencies at natural gas well sites and production facilities.

Fire commissioner Tim Solobay called the facility at Washington County Fire Academy the most complete training facility of its kind in the state.

“There’s nothing like it outside of Texas,” Solobay told The (Washington) Observer-Reporter.

Officials say they expect the industry-specific site to host at least one monthly training session with regional professionals and emergency departments starting next month. Crews from Greene County, West Virginia and Ohio were on hand Saturday for look at the training.

As a demonstration, county hazardous materials crews poured foam and water onto a prop metallic containment unit as propane was pumped into it to sustain a controlled fire.

“We can light up any of the props, but the real aim through that training is to recreate any situation that could happen on a well pad,” fire academy president Mike McBride said.

County public safety director Jeff Yates said the mock structures will also allow rescue operations to be replicated.

“There have been situations with workers stuck on or around a condensate tank, so we can execute those types of training, as well,” Yates said.

The facility follows nearly two years of collaboration with firms such as Range Resources, Rice Energy, Consol Energy, EQT, American Well Service and others, McBride said. Industry “stepped up and paid for nearly everything” except manpower, Solobay said.

McBride said the goal is to give crews detailed and practical knowledge of what industry works with on a well site.

“Because it comes down to knowing what you can handle, and knowing when it’s time to call in the industry professionals who specialize in well site emergencies,” he said.