Preventing a Natural Gas Pipeline Explosion Can be as Simple as Calling 811

Here’s how to prevent them and respond if they happen

Courtesy of PHMSA

While response to minor gas leaks are common to most fire departments, responding to incidents involving large natural gas or hazardous liquid pipeline explosions are among the most dangerous and difficult situations to handle, even for veteran emergency responders. These are low frequency events, but can have devastating consequences. However, most of these incidents can be prevented with a toll-free call to 811 prior to excavation.

A leading cause of gas pipeline explosions or liquid spills is excavation damage to underground natural gas and hazardous liquid pipelines. In fact, excavation damage to pipelines have resulted in fatal injuries, significant property loss, and disruption. A call to 811 deploys local utilities to mark their nearby underground systems so that those who are excavation know what’s below and will dig safely.

This spring, many excavation projects are beginning. Now is the time for you to equip yourself with tools to prevent and respond to pipeline incidents:

  1. Prevent. Avoid incidents this spring by reminding everyone to “Know What’s Below; Call 811 Before You Dig.” Visit to access a Toolkit with awareness materials such as posters and web site banners.
  2. Prepare. Use the Public Viewer web site for maps of pipelines and operators in your specific counties. Visit for a demo on how to use it.
  3. Respond. Know how to handle hazardous materials when incidents occur. The Emergency Response Guidebook mobile application is available for download on or in iTunes and Google Play.

There are 2.6 million miles of pipelines delivering vital, hazardous materials to homes and businesses across the country; many pipelines are running through the neighborhoods that you serve. Not only does 811 prevent service outages and protects the public, it also saves the lives of the people on the front lines of danger—emergency responders.

811 is a free nationwide service that’s required by law in many states already. Since its debut six years ago, the frequency of these incidents has decreased by more than 45 percent. The Common Ground Alliance reports that a prior call to 811 reduces the likelihood of an incident to less than 1 percent.

Public safety officials play critical role in reducing community risk. Let’s take it a step further by spreading awareness with this simple safety message: Know What’s Below; Call 811 Before You Dig.

Thank you for your important and honorable work. Help protect your emergency responders and the American public by spreading the word!