‘Everybody’s ready to help’: Sharpening safety in Cushing through mutual aid pact

Safety Alliance of Cushing enables training, collaboration, emergency resource sharing

How do operators at the world’s largest crude oil storage facility stay in a constant state of readiness?

To quote a time-tested phrase, practice makes perfect.

“You drill. You drill continuously,” says Landon Link, a member of the Safety Alliance of Cushing. “You drill, and you drill, and then you drill some more.”

That’s drilling with emergency response plans, resources and colleagues—not bits, mud and casings.

Safety isn’t just a priority at the Cushing Tank Farm in Cushing, OK. It’s a way of life. That’s why the 14 operators at the “pipeline crossroads of the world” stay vigilant through organizations like the Safety Alliance of Cushing, a mutual aid group dedicated to collaboration, resource sharing and joint training—including regularly scheduled drills and simulations—in the event of an incident.

“For any kind of emergency, everybody’s ready to help, and everyone’s on the same page,” says Link, a Cushing-based senior safety advisor, and Enbridge’s liaison with the Safety Alliance of Cushing. “We have the best emergency responders on the planet, from city to state.

“The combined list of emergency resources we have, as a group, is unbelievable. And through our collective agreement, we have access to all of it.”

With 20 million barrels of storage in 87 tanks, Enbridge is one of the largest operators at Cushing, a vital transshipment point on the North American energy landscape.

Our preparation includes regular equipment deployments and tabletop exercises with local and state emergency responders. It includes a long list of engineering failsafes, such as berms and retention ponds, designed to contain any spills on our property. And it also includes storing and maintaining a large cache of emergency response equipment on site, such as:

  • The only hose-reel trailer in the state of Oklahoma;
  • More than 6,000 feet of fire hose;
  • 2,650 gallons of firefighting foam;
  • One 9,000 gallon-per-minute pump, and one 6,000 gpm monitor/nozzle;
  • A brush truck with 300-gallon water storage and a 10-gallon foam tank; and
  • Two work boats, three skimmer systems, and 2,500 feet of boom.

“Our leadership is committed to ensuring the safety of the public and our responders. It’s our top priority,” says Katy Mays, a Cushing-based emergency response coordinator with Enbridge. “And our people are absolutely dedicated to responding when the need arises.”

In early 2017, Enbridge will host a full-scale emergency response drill, along with numerous agencies, organizations and industry partners at the Cushing Tank Farm—as we test and improve our preparedness and response systems.

Participants and observers are expected to include the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA), emergency management officials from Creek, Lincoln, Osage, Pawnee and Payne Counties, the Cushing police and fire departments, and representatives from the Muscogee (Creek), Osage, Sac and Fox Nations.

“We have a very close relationship with our first responders on a local, county and even state level. Our emergency response efforts are based on a spirit of collaboration,” says Doug Cook, Enbridge’s Cushing area manager.

“In October, when Enterprise Products had a release here at the tank farm (a release that was contained within an Enbridge retention pond), we helped support their response, starting with a request for traffic barriers at midnight,” he adds. “We know they would do the same for us.”

(TOP PHOTO: Personnel from Enbridge, the Cushing Fire Department and Gavilon Pipeline and Storage take part in a strategic tank firefighting exercise in August 2013.)