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Last Month’s Explosion Hangs Over Routine Training Drill In Plano

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(credit: KTVT/KTXA) Bud Gillett
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PLANO (CBSDFW.COM) – First Responders from Plano huddled together with workers from Atmos Energy Tuesday, but it was just a drill; they were training for a gas leak.

Still, it’s one that came on the heels of a recent crisi, when Plano resident Anson Chi was arrested and accused of trying to blow up a natural gas line in his neighborhood.

“Gas City” is a man-made community at the Atmos Energy Training Center designed to give real-world experience to the men and women with the risky jobs of healing ruptured gas lines.

“There’s different techniques you use on any of our pipelines, based on the materials,” said John McDill, the vice president of pipeline safety.

On Tuesday they sealed off a leak in a polyethylene line. But the students weren’t new recruits; they were first responders and Plano city officials. The company tries to regularly schedule these kinds of exercises with first responders, but today’s is the first since the incident last month in Plano grabbed headlines.

On June 22, a series of explosions rocked a gas regulator station on Parker Rd. in Plano; police and gas company officials were thrown in together.

Investigators say a man who lived in the neighborhood, Chi, tried to detonate the line and ended up hurting himself in the process.

They say explosives were found in his home. The FBI took over the case and a federal grand jury indicted Chi for possession of a destructive device.

“When we’re on an incident everyone plays a vital role,” said Plano Police spokesman Officer David Tilley at the conclusion of the exercise.

The parties were back together in a less stressful situation than last month, this time networking and learning about each other’s needs when a sudden, high-pressure emergency erupts.

“The whole point is to get things back to normal,” says Tilley.  “The better contacts we have, the better the working relationship we have working with them is going to basically expedite that.”

‘Situational awareness’ is what Tilley calls it.  McDill says, “We’re trying to help continue to work with our key first responders to insure that we have a partnership to respond to a variety of emergency conditions, whatever they might be.”

Atmos Energy is trying to schedule similar exercises with other cities it serves.

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