Disaster planning priority in Buffalo Township
Buffalo officials are trying to stay on top of disaster management and prevention regarding oil and natural gas well sites.
Supervisors questioned fire department personnel and the township emergency management coordinator Wednesday night about their response to potential well site disasters in the township.
Buffalo Volunteer Fire Company Chief Matt Cypher said that his company and Sarver Volunteer Fire Company have attended a seminar hosted by Penn Energy for a nearby well in Clinton Township.
“We're trying to stay ahead of the curve,” Cypher said.
Supervisor John K. Haven said that Buffalo could have three well sites run by XTO Energy. There is a public hearing April 10 on the wells planned for Howes Run Road.
Haven said he wants to be sure that the emergency management coordinator and fire departments are ready to respond to fires and emergencies at the wells.
Cypher asked for the opportunity to visit the well sites before they are operational to become familiar with the layout in the event of an emergency.
Aside from fires, the fire departments also respond to medical emergencies with the ambulances as well as air quality monitoring.
Dealing with a fire at a well site will require coordination with employees at the site, he said.
“Fire situations there are a whole other kit and caboodle,” Cypher said. “We will create guidelines for our company to respond to that.”
The companies already have had a few calls because of the wells, responding to transfer stations and pipelines, but not the actual well sites.
“A lot of it we're learning as we go,” said Bill George, fire chief at Sarver Volunteer Fire Company.
The fire departments will have to devote more training to focus on learning about emergency response at the wells.
Emergencies could include not only a fire at the wells — which will be handled by the well company with the fire departments as support — but also worker injuries, traffic accidents caused by fatigued workers and electric generator fires.
Emergency management coordinator Ed Tabisz said his job is to coordinate between fire companies and the township supervisors as well as set up shelters in case of evacuations in residential neighborhoods.
The supervisors also approved the purchase and installation of an emergency backup generator for $21,000.
The backup generator will run power in the township office, which would be the emergency management center in case of disasters. It also will run gas pumps for the fire trucks and ambulances.
“We have to make a concerted effort for this,” Haven said.
Kate Wilcox is a freelance writer for Trib Total Media.