PG&E giving emergency responders natural-gas line info 

PG&E has said it will supply local emergency responders with detailed information on gas pipelines in response to complaints that maps the company provided were insufficient.

The utility company released maps with pipeline and valve locations to first responders after the San Bruno tragedy in September as part of its Pipeline 2020 project, PG&E spokesman Joe Molica said.

However, Menlo Park fire Chief Harold Schapelhouman has requested the size, age and pressure for pipelines within his fire district, but that information was previously unavailable.

“The bottom line is, how do I assess the risk if I don’t know the size of the pipe ... [or] if I don’t know the pressure of the pipe?” he said.

Schapelhouman, who described his working relationship with PG&E as “good” in previous years, said the utility was wary of releasing specific information, citing terrorism concerns.

“I understand it,” he said regarding PG&E’s concern of details falling into the wrong hands. “There are people out there who want to cause us harm.”

Before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, PG&E had provided detailed maps much more regularly to city agencies, Molica said. After the San Bruno blast last September, the company resumed granting pipeline details to first responders.

“Menlo Park has been a very valuable partner throughout this process,” Molica said. “[Schapelhouman] has a lot of disaster experience, which we value. It’s a lot of info, but we’re working as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.”

PG&E has recently launched a pilot project that would digitize pipeline maps, making them available inside firefighting units, Molica said. San Francisco, Fremont and San Bruno are among the first cities included in the project while software issues are being resolved.

“It will allow them to have this access from anywhere,” Molica said. The electronic system will encompass pipe size, pressure and age details.

Burlingame fire Chief Don Dornell said his department has received pipeline maps from PG&E and knows the potential pressures and locations of the three lines within the city. He said size, however, is less of a concern.

“A 1-inch main or a 20-inch main, it’s still going to put out a lot of gas,” Dornell said.

Daly City’s chief of emergency preparedness and planning, Matt Lucett, said he’s made copies of the available maps and distributed them throughout response vehicles.

“The more important thing is knowing where they are, from our perspective,” Lucett said. San Mateo fire Chief Dan Belville said, “the more knowledge we have, the better prepared we are.”

sbishop@sfexaminer.com

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