First responders train for gas leaks

Firefighters and utilities crews work together to reduce the hazards associated with natural gas. (3/13/14)

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POMONA - The massive gas explosion that took down two NYC buildings and killed at least eight people is a chilling reminder of similar destructive gas leaks.

It was just two years ago that same destructive force reduced a pair of West Haverstraw homes to splinters. Rockland's Director of Fire and Emergency Services Gordon Wren says it's something he'll never forget. "That explosion was more than one townhouse. We had two firefighters seriously injured, along with two utility workers. And this past June, we had a very serious explosion at Nyack College," says Wren.

Since then, Wren says volunteer firefighters have been attending training sessions, like the one held in Pomona Wednesday, to prepare first responders to handle gas leaks. These sessions are part of an ongoing collaboration between firefighters and officials from Orange and Rockland Utilities to reduce the hazards associated with natural gas. "This is OSHA-approved awareness training for the fire departments. They're all volunteers. All the fellows you see here worked today at their real jobs, and they’re here now on their own time to learn about the gas system and how it will affect their work as firemen," adds Wren.

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Orange and Rockland Utility officials say that natural gas is so volatile and so sensitive that a firefighter who rings a person's doorbell can set off a massive explosion. "A flashlight could set it off. Your car keys could set it off. The ringer on a telephone could set it off," says O & R's Mike Donovan.

Donavan stresses that the minute you smell gas, you should contact O&R immediately at its gas emergency hotline at (800) 533-5325.

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