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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Suggested Citation:"Summary." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2005. Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/23328.
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Below is the uncorrected machine-read text of this chapter, intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text of each book. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Natural gas is now widely used as a fuel for transit buses. It has properties that are different from those of diesel fuel, resulting in a different set of potential hazards. Transit agencies that use natural gas require emergency procedures that address and mitigate those hazards. These procedures must take into consideration the different groups that may respond to a transit emergency, including firefighters and other emergency responders, transit employees, and even the general public. In most respects, transit experience with natural gas has been suc- cessful, but there are some situations for which improved emergency procedures have been needed. Some procedures need to be more fully developed; in several cases, additional infor- mation is needed to facilitate such development. Moreover, communication of the procedures to emergency responders represents a continuing challenge. The use of the Incident Com- mand System is now widespread in the fire service, and additional effort is needed to inte- grate transit emergency response procedures into that system. This synthesis was undertaken to identify and document the state of the practice about emergency response protocols to inci- dents involving natural gas-filled transit buses. Typical incidents that required or received an emergency response where the natural gas fuel was an issue were • Natural gas releases; • Bus fires; and • Some traffic accidents, such as collisions of buses having roof-mounted tanks with low bridges. Emergency procedures must be consistent with the basic objectives of emergency response: assess the situation, assist those in need, prevent further injuries and property damage, and secure the scene and preserve evidence. To further define the current situation with regard to natural gas-powered bus incidents and the procedure development, a questionnaire was sent to 52 transit agencies that use nat- ural gas fuel. There were 19 responses to the questionnaire that covered 3,130 natural gas buses and showed a reported fuel-related incident rate on the order of 1 incident per 100 nat- ural gas buses per year. Transit mechanics were the most frequent responders to these inci- dents, responding 92% of the time; fire departments responded 69% of the time. Many of the incidents involved gas releases. However, not all gas releases represent failures: a fuel stor- age cylinder for liquefied natural gas may release gas as a result of excess pressure developed during a period of non-use or from overfilling. Overall, the survey found that more than 50% of the responding transit agencies have not prepared emergency procedures for both facility and vehicle emergencies and 40% have not communicated any emergency procedures to local fire or police departments. Firefighters tend to have their own perspective on responding to incidents involving nat- ural gas transit buses. Many firefighters find it hazardous to fight vehicle fires aggressively, and if a fire involving a natural gas bus does occur, the natural gas fuel may cause additional SUMMARY EMERGENCY RESPONSE PROCEDURES FOR NATURAL GAS TRANSIT VEHICLES

concerns for firefighters because they have little experience with natural gas vehicles. There- fore, firefighters may take a defensive approach to a natural gas bus fire. Furthermore, although natural gas buses contain numerous safety features, such as robust fuel tank construction, pressure relief devices, shutoff valves, combustible gas detectors, and on-board extinguish- ing systems, firefighters have identified additional safety features that they believe would facilitate their emergency response. Although in many localities significant effort has gone into information transfer from tran- sit agencies with natural gas vehicles to local fire departments, the experience of transit agen- cies with subsequent fire department response to incidents involving natural gas transit buses caused them to conclude that current efforts in information transfer are insufficient and inef- fective. Additional study is needed to define the information that fire departments need and to determine the most effective way to communicate that information. Emergency procedures for incidents involving natural gas facilities generally emphasize the use of combustible gas alarms and ventilation to mitigate hazards from the accumulation of flammable gas. Such procedures can often be improved by maintaining a clear focus on the actions needed to respond to the emergency. With respect to natural gas security procedures, some are directed toward protecting essen- tial transit functions. Other security issues connected with the use of natural gas as a fuel for transit vehicles require additional study to define the degree of fuel-related risk. 2

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TRB’s Transit Cooperative Research Program (TCRP) Synthesis 58: Emergency Response Procedures for Natural Gas Transit Vehicles identifies and documents the state of the practice on emergency response protocols to incidents involving natural gas-filled transit buses. The report is designed to assist first responders to natural gas incidents—emergency response professionals such as police officers and fire-fighters; transit agency operations and maintenance employees, police, and security guards; and certain members of the general public.

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