Homeland Security Watch

News and analysis of critical issues in homeland security

September 10, 2010

ACCIDENT in San Bruno, are there strategic implications?

Filed under: Preparedness and Response,Strategy — by Philip J. Palin on September 10, 2010

Chronicle photograph by Brant Ward


(09-09) 22:03 PDT SAN BRUNO — With a thunderous roar heard for miles, a natural gas line explosion ripped through a San Bruno neighborhood Thursday evening, sending up a geyser of fire that killed at least one person and injured more than 20 others, and igniting a blaze that destroyed 53 homes and damaged 120 more, authorities said.

The wind-whipped blaze leaped from structure to structure in the neighborhood near Skyline Boulevard and Sneath Lane, west of Interstate 280, raging unabated for almost an hour as emergency crews rushed in and residents streamed out.

The central ball of fire, fed by the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. gas line, raged past nightfall before abating. By then, houses on several blocks and thick stands of trees were engulfed in flamesMORE

Given natural threats — such as earthquake — in the Bay area (or in your area), what are the strategic implications of this accident?

Given past evidence of terrorist ability to weaponize benign resources scattered across our shared landscape, what are the strategic implications of this accident?

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September 10, 2010 @ 5:57 am

“You won’t find the term ‘antipiracy’ in any of the CENSECFOR VBSS training curriculum,” Guy says.

It can get gung-ho fast. The house was robbed and I can’t call the cops. Even ripped off my leather. Odd poached the ammo and heads like eggs can be bad. Sometimes there ain’t no lawyers or systems to protect you. Life is never dull with action. The world runs on acts not words. Never ask anybody under your command to do anything you wouldn’t be willing to do yourself. No training for fame and accidents happen. Change the diaper, baby had an accident. Dung-ho from the Baby Navy.


September 10, 2010 @ 6:06 am

Natural gas lines are monuments to the stupidity of man. Get all new electric appliances and shut off gas.
Marcellus shale drillers prowling the area here. I got gas coming out my rear end. Doesn’t make me a rear admiral. If pump chemicals into ground water we can ruin the water for the gas and make Tom Ridge and Geo Bush rich too.


September 10, 2010 @ 6:22 am

“If thou art able, O stranger, to find out all these things and gather them together in your mind, giving all the relations, thou shalt depart crowned with glory and knowing that thou hast been adjudged perfect in this species of wisdom.” http://www.math.nyu.edu/~crorres/Archimedes/Cattle/Statement.html

There are lots of fools running rackets out there. Use your own best judgment and avoid dumb cattle. Cattle get slaughtered without mercy. Everybody’s got a beef. Thou art is always able, willing and ready. There can be no happiness without justice. The enemy would cook you alive and send you a gas bill. It wouldn’t get paid.


September 10, 2010 @ 6:46 am

Koran burning called off. Lots of off people and I turn people off. Itz a job.

Thanks and Good Bye……………Don’t poach my bronze creeps.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2010 @ 9:41 am

INTERSTATE GAS PIPELINES remain insecure and targeting concepts always involve more than analysis of localized damage. There is evidence that AQ targeting remains strategic not tactical.

Comment by William R. Cumming

September 10, 2010 @ 3:52 pm

Another “regulated?” industry that relies on the national response system to bail it out?

Comment by Bruce Martin

September 14, 2010 @ 10:43 pm

This pipe was 50+ years old. Technology for pipelines in seismically active areas has improved in those 50 years. Network analysis suggest that vulnerabilities in the natural gas pipeline system are the clusters of storage areas and critical valve nodes. This failure did not occur in either location. The utility, in accordance with the Pipeline Safety Act of 2002, has assessed their assets, planned upgrades and asked for rate increases to pay for the work. Investing in infrastructure enhances resilience, no matter what the threat.

California’s Community Right to Know law, administered by local governments, requires annual disclosure of hazardous materials and mitigation plans. This law doesn’t apply to natural gas pipelines. The state, acting on behalf of PHMSA, regulates natural gas (NG) pipelines. The utility generally shares pipeline locations with local government for emergency response purposes but is becoming “security conscious” and the information is becoming harder for first responders to obtain. The gaps and overlaps in agencies performing regulatory oversight and bestowing information sharing authority may confound agencies attempting to be prepared or attempting to respond.

This event started big. Responder experience in California is well used to expanding incidents. Growing an incident organization as the problem expands is a normal and practiced evolution. Starting an event at the “fifth alarm” and then expecting resources to be initially organized is wishful thinking. We do not practice this often. It is an exercise in responding to instant complexity: pour resources in, have them do the best they can under broad guidelines (life, property, environment in that order), and organize them along the way. This situation is not unlike a WMD event and this response ‘style’ ought to be articulated and practiced by regions, perhaps UASI’s.

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