TROUT RUN - Emergency responders arriving at the scene of a gas well accident Saturday on Bobst Mountain near Trout Run encountered more than they bargained for.
In addition to the initial situation - a severely injured worker trapped under a pile of steel drilling pipe - responders discovered an injured worker hanging from the drilling rig, another worker trapped in an enclosed mud tank and a nearby flammable liquid spill in danger of catching fire.
Soon, it was discovered another worker was missing.
Fortunately, it was only a test.
The exercise, held at a gas drilling site leased by Texas gas exploration company Range Resources, brought together state, county and local emergency response and emergency preparedness agencies, Geisinger's medical helicopter, Jersey Shore Hospital, the State Police, the state Department of Environmental Protection and representatives of the gas drilling industry to learn how to respond to a real life gas well emergency.
For several hours, the service road to the site was bustling with activity as ambulances and fire and rescue trucks arrived on the scene.
Emergency crews arrive Saturday at a gas
well site near Trout Run during an exercise designed to evaluate the ability of emergency
agencies to respond to natural gas industry accidents.
A "victim" is trapped in the gas drilling pipe at the left in the above photo. Gas well workers gather in a muster area, left photo, as emergency units arrive on the scene. An injured gas drilling "worker" - actually, a mannequin -
hangs from a gas drilling rig below. Lower
left, Geisinger Health System?s Life Flight
awaits accident "victims" during the training
"This is so that if this happens in real life, we'll know how to respond accordingly," said Larry Carter, of Texas-based Patterson-UTI, the gas rig company contracted by Range Resources.
The three injured "workers" were portrayed by mannequins.
One of the "workers" died at the scene and was transported from of the area by county Coroner Charles Keissling.
Once the other two victims were secured by rescuers, live volunteers, made up to look like accident victims, took their place and were transported to Jersey Shore Hospital to be treated by medical personnel.
The missing worker, who had fallen down a hill and was injured and lost in the woods, was portrayed by a live volunteer.
Gas company employees and emergency responders discovered the worker was missing after workers gathered at a pre-determined "muster point" so authorities could account for their whereabouts.
The exercise, which was funded by a $10,000 grant given to the county by Range Resources, was the result of months of planning by the Lycoming County Community Gas Drilling Task Force's Public Safety Subcommittee and the gas company, said subcommittee chairman Craig Konkle.
Konkle said he, county emergency preparedness planner Ted Kriner and Williamsport deputy fire chief Irv Gleason played a key role in planning the event.
Trout Run Volunteer Fire Co. fire chief Bob Whitford also played a big part in the exercise, Konkle said.
The focus of the excersize was to determine where there are "gaps" in both the way emergency responders deal with a gas drilling emergency and in gas company procedures, Konkle said.
"Its not just about emergency responders," he said. "(The gas industry) also has areas they need to work on. It was a team effort to show both sides of the coin."
"We're learning where our gaps are and (emergency responders) are learning where their gaps are," Carter said.
"They're not looking for negatives," said Jim Cannon, Range Resources public affairs specialist. "I think they're looking for a baseline on which to build."
Gaps may include equipment, such as air quality gauges, emergency responders may need when responding to a gas drilling emergency, said Ralph Tijerina, Range Resources director of health, safety and environmental.
According to Kriner, the object of the exercise was bring the industry and emergency services together in a unified response to the emergency.
According to Konkle, 20 to 25 agencies participated in the exercise. He estimated more than 200 people, including 120 emergency responders, participated in the event. The rest were comprised of evaluators, safety officials and gas company employees, he said.
Cannon, an Army and Marine Corps veteran, said "the level of coordination and detail (in organizing the exercise) rivals anything I ever did in the military."
The information gathered from the event will be used to develop an action plan that can be used throughout the industry, not just by Range Resources, Konkle said.
"This is not just about Range," he said. "It is about improving the gas industry as a whole. That speaks volumes about Range and who they are."
"This will benefit everybody in the county," said Tijerina.