Firefighter's Association President questions response times by Va. Natural Gas

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by Nick Ochsner, 13News Now

WVEC.com

Posted on November 15, 2013 at 7:23 PM

Updated Saturday, Nov 16 at 11:35 AM

VIRGINIA BEACH -- Bill Bailey, President of the Virginia Beach Firefighter's Association, is raising questions over what he calls a "slow response time" to gas leaks and ruptures by Virginia Natural Gas.

Bailey says crews sometimes spend hours at the scene of a ruptured gas line, often punctured by construction crews who are digging, which means fire crews remain tied up longer than necessary.

"When those resources aren't available and they're tied up at a natural gas leak, they're not available to go to a cardiac arrest or a car accident or even a structural fire," Bailey said.

Typically, a gas leak response consists of several engines, a ladder truck and a battalion chief.

In a 13News Now Investigation, we asked for a list of all gas leak calls the Virginia Beach Fire Department responded to between August 1, 2013 and November 3, 2013.

According to the report, the fire department responded to 42 calls in that three-month span. Each gas leak call lasted an average of 45 minutes, with some calls lasting two or three hours.

Virginia National Gas spokesman Duane Bourne defends their response time.

Bourne says gas crews must follow property safety procedures, which often take time, before they can plug the leak or shut off a valve.

"Safety is our number one priority - the safety of our crews, the safety of our customers and the safety of first responders," Bourne said. "We'd like to be quicker, but we also want to be safer."

Battalion Chief Amy Valdez, spokeswoman for the Virginia Beach Fire Department, said the department has worked with VNG in the past to find the safest and quickest way to respond to gas leaks. Valdez said the department does not have a problem with VNG's response times.

Bailey believes VNG should find a way to make extra crews available to respond to gas leak emergencies or find another way to trim their response time.

"I don't think they realize how long it's taking and how much fire department, police resources are being tied up while we're just standing by waiting for a response from Virginia Natural Gas," Bailey said.
 

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