State-of-the-art facility provides state certification
When it comes to dealing with an emergency, in any community, the background and training of first responders is a critical component of positive outcomes, however unlikely those emergencies may be. In southwestern Pennsylvania first responders have been receiving specialized training for years on how to deal with natural gas related incidents. But now, they have a new tool, and it’s taking emergency preparedness to the next level.
In September, the Washington County Fire Academy, along with state officials and gas industry experts on safety, debuted their brand new Well Pad Training Site – a hands-on site that is one of a kind in the region.
The new training facility is the culmination of years of planning, cooperation and support from natural gas companies in southwestern Pennsylvania. Range donated the bulk of the equipment, and employees spent a lot of hours working the phones — encouraging vendors to donate time and equipment: from the paint used on the training pad props, to the electrical wiring, to the well head itself. Senior Engineering Technician Chuck Phillips played a key role in that effort, explaining, “As soon as I heard about the project a while back, I wanted to be on board. My son works in this industry too. Safety is a top priority for me, so my only question was: what do you need me to do? I’m just so proud to work for a company that places such a high emphasis on safety – it’s who we are at Range.”
During the planning process, Chuck and others worked closely with Corporate Security Manager Hugh White, who is a certified fire fighter and paramedic, previously served as the Emergency Planning Officer for Washington County prior to joining Range. Hugh has long been involved with training and developing emergency preparedness curriculum, and sees the new facility as the next step in that evolution. “It complements the training first responders have already received, it’s a hands-on experience and they’ll be able to receive state certification once they complete classes and training at the new site.”
Hugh is thrilled to see years of preparation and planning pay off, and he’ll be back at the site for another training session soon. “We are planning an “inaugural” two-day training session sometime in late 2015. This is the certified training conducted by the State Fire Academy, and it will include sessions on industry familiarization, equipment and hazard identification; incident command protocol; and most importantly — what not to do when they arrive on location. I’ve been very impressed with the broad knowledge and understanding that our region’s first responders have demonstrated as it relates to natural gas development, but this facility and training certification will take that to a new level.” Dates for that two-day training session will be finalized later this month.
Washington County Commissioners Diana Irey Vaughn and Larry Maggi, and Washington County Public Safety Director Jeff Yates attended the September 12th ribbon cutting at the Fire Academy training site. Jeff is excited about the opportunity the training pad presents to first responders, saying, “To actually be able to go out and climb up on the equipment and touch it is something that you can’t really do in production. But here, the first responders can do it. They can take all the time they want. They can sit in the classroom and learn about it, and then walk out on the pad and get their hands on it and really feel it … We are thrilled to have this. There’s nothing else like it that we’re aware of in this part of this country.”
While the Fire Academy Gas Well Training Pad will be used primarily by local first responders, Yates says that in time they plan to open it up to any first responders – from anywhere in the country – who want to take part in the unique gas well training they can now find in Washington County, made possible by a coalition of companies led by Range Resources.