Emergency Planning Vital

Gas drilling company representatives who met with Marshall County emergency services officials this week seemed receptive to ideas intended to make the industry safer, both for its workers and local communities. We encourage officials throughout the Northern Panhandle to pursue cooperation such as that demonstrated in Marshall County.

After a gas well explosion that injured several workers earlier this year in Marshall County, shortcomings in plans to deal with such events became apparent. For one thing, no one seemed to know how many workers were at the well site and whether any were not accounted for after the blast.

During the meeting this week, the Marshall County Office of Emergency Management discussed preparedness with representatives of several companies. Among OEM recommendations were providing up-to-date maps of drilling sites, along with global positioning satellite coordinates, availability of information about hazardous materials at drilling locations, and some system of keeping track of workers. The latter could be accomplished with something as simple as sign-in sheets at drilling sites.

Some of the steps discussed at the meeting already are being taken by some drilling companies. All of the ideas sound simple and relatively easy to implement.

It needs to be understood that safety considerations affect those other than drilling company workers – though that certainly is important by itself. For example, firefighters could be placed at risk needlessly in searching a disaster site for workers who were not accounted for – but who may not have been present when an accident such as an explosion occurred.

We commend Marshall County officials for calling the meeting this week, and for their list of suggestions. Again, we urge emergency officials throughout our area to make similar contacts with gas drilling companies – and insist on cooperation in planning to deal with accidents.