Gas Well Blast Highlights Need for Communication

Emergency management officials say they need better maps of drilling and compressor sites, including GPS coordinates, lists of chemicals and information about the hazards they present.

MOUNDSVILLE, W.Va. (AP) — Emergency management officials say natural gas drilling companies need better ways of communicating with first responders and local hospitals when there's an accident.

A June explosion near Moundsville that injured seven workers prompted a meeting Tuesday between gas companies and first responders in the Northern Panhandle.

Rescuers say they need better maps of drilling and compressor sites, including GPS coordinates. They also want lists of chemicals and other materials used at the sites, and information about the hazards they present.

First responders also suggested gas companies create an accountability system to determine which workers are at each site, such as sign-in sheets or "muster areas," where people would assemble during a crisis.

After the June explosion, volunteer firefighters struggled to determine how many workers had been injured and whether any were missing.

Michelle Johnston of Reynolds Memorial Hospital in Glen Dale said the injured workers arrived in private vehicles, so hospital staff had no idea how many patients to expect or whether there were potential fatalities.

"In the coal mine, there are tags," she said. "You know how many come down and how many come back up. How do we know if someone is missing?"

Safety manager Dameon Scott of Dallas, Texas-based Chief Oil & Natural Gas said his company will work with the responders. Earlier this month, Chief gave $100,000 to the crews that handled the Moundsville explosion.

Union Drilling Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas, had been sinking the well for Chief and Ohio-based AB Resources PA LLC when it struck and ignited methane in an abandoned coal mine.