Ohio is a trendsetter when it comes to training for gas and oil field emergencies.
The Responding to Oil Field Emergencies Training Workshop by the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program has been going for more than a dozen years longer than the topic raised by the boom in Utica shale mining in the region.
Ohio was one of the first states in the country to create emergency response training for the gas and oil field industry, said Rhonda Reda, executive director of the Ohio Oil and Gas Emergency Education Program. Seven other states have participated in the training here in Ohio because it is the one of the flagship programs for such training.
To date, more than 800 firefighters representing 227 fire departments and 40 Ohio counties have participated in the safety training that is fully funded by donations from natural gas and crude oil producers across the state. Reda said 203 cities, villages and townships have also participated in the training.
More than $1 million has been spend on this training, but no tax dollars have been used to pay for the program, said Reda. It is fully funded by donations and as a result, there is no cost for the fire departments and firefighters that participate in the training.
The proactive training makes emergency responders more aware of the risks of a gas or oil field emergency and how to handle such an emergency.
A lot of firefighters in this area have never been exposed to incidents in a gas or oil field, said New Concord Fire Chief Brent Gates, an instructor for the Ohio Oil and Gas Energy Education Program. This training makes firefighters aware of what can happen. It makes firefighters more familiar and comfortable with what is going on out there in the fields.
Fighting an outside fire is totally different than fighting a structure fire. You have to develop different techniques and methods to fight these fires, Gates added.
The probability an emergency will arise is slim, according to Gates, but incidents such as lightening strikes and oil or gas line ruptures will occur.
The training gives firefighters the confidence to handle these situations, said Gates.
According to Reda, the training also educates emergency responders how to recognize real emergencies so they are not tied up evaluating equipment in non-emergency situations and as a result, are unable to respond to an actual emergency.
The training is one of the reasons why you dont hear about a lot of emergencies, said Reda. This is a well trained industry.
The training program meets state and national fire safety standards and is endorsed by the Ohio Fire Chiefs Association.
The curriculum was developed with the assistance of emergency responders from all around the state.
It was a collaborative effort, said Reda. As a result, its a very good training program. Without the partnership with the fire departments, we would not have a training program.