Emergency response tabletop drill – November 2023

One of the most important activities we do in Northwest Pipeline Operations is to regularly test our ability to respond to various types of emergencies through mock emergency drills. These range in scope and complexity from a quick “what if” scenario during a weekly team meeting to security related drills including cybersecurity, or occasionally large-scale drills that engage pipeline control, customers, first responders, public agencies, and many of the internal Williams departments that may respond in the event of a significant pipeline emergency.

On November 8, 2023, Williams conducted a large tabletop exercise in Renton, Washington, which is the location of Williams’ South Seattle delivery metering facility.  The drill was planned and coordinated by Jessica Malmstedt, Field Office Administrator for the Eugene District and Jason Westmoreland, Operations Supervisor for the Redmond District. Participants included several police and fire departments from around the area: King County Emergency Management, Renton City, Renton Emergency Management, and several other local agencies. Williams pipeline control participated from the control room in Houston via Teams. Puget Sound Energy, the LDC downstream of Williams in the area, participated both with gas control, emergency management and pressure control personnel. Local Williams operations technicians were spread throughout the group. The Emergency Management office from the state of Washington also participated.

After Jessica led an interactive presentation on natural gas and pipelines, Tim Gott, Williams’ Crisis Management Expert, then started the tabletop exercise by creating five separate teams, each comprised of Williams and PSE personnel as well as a mix of Police, Fire, and Emergency Management. The scenario that Tim presented was that there were 911 reports of a propane truck crashing into a Williams meter station and that pipeline control had noticed a rapid loss of pressure in the area.

Each of the five teams worked through prioritizing the response, considering issues such as securing the site, evacuating residents, shelter in place options and setting up Incident Command. Williams and PSE personnel worked through the steps to safely isolate the site and helped the other participants understand the complexities involved in shutting down gas supply in an emergency, including the significant time it takes to reestablish service in certain situations. After about an hour, a spokesperson from each team presented what their team’s response priorities were to the larger group, which led to an open discussion amongst all participants.

Results / Outcomes –

  • Emergency management personnel from King County and Renton City had an eye-opening experience of the potential impact of a gas pipeline incident in a large metro area. Contacts were made between Operations leaders from Williams to plan additional drills in other parts of King County.
  • Williams technicians on each team immediately opened their “Smart Plan” app, which is a tool Williams has recently implemented, replacing hardcopy emergency manuals with all the emergency procedures and drawings for a given district on every employee’s mobile device. Employees were able to immediately pull up addresses, phone numbers, pipeline diagrams and other information needed to isolate the system accurately and quickly. PSE personnel were very impressed with the Smart Plan app and its ease of use by the field technicians. They mentioned that they would like to utilize a similar tool.