Step 1: Pipeline Safety

Please review the following information before you continue

The U.S. pipeline system spans over two million miles, traversing our yards and neighborhoods.  Schools that are eligible to participate in the Energy for Education program and any giveaways are located very near a transmission pipeline or have pipeline connections (natural gas) on their school property.  Most of these schools have students and families very near pipelines as well.  

You may know that pipelines carry gas for our cars, jet fuel for planes, but did you know that they also carry the building blocks of most products we use daily?  Petroleum products include transportation and heating fuels, asphalt and road oil, and feedstocks used to the make the chemicals , plastics and synthetics needed for medicines, computers, toys, etc.  Pipelines also carry the natural gas used to heat our homes and businesses. 

Pipelines have been recognized by the National Transportation Safety Board as the safest vehicle to transport energy products like these.  According to the Association of Oil Pipe Lines, a barrel of crude oil arrives safely via pipeline more than 99.999% of the time.  Serious pipeline problems are rare, but if a problem occurs, it is imperative you and your family know how to quickly respond. 

There are three categories of pipelines: gathering, transmission and distribution.  Gathering lines literally gather energy products from production areas (drilling sites) to take to processing facilities.  Transmission lines are the larger "highway system" of pipelines.  They transport products across state lines utilizing large diameter pipe.  Distribution lines are the pipelines that ultimately connect to your home or business through your natural gas connection.  Visit the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration for information about how gas pipeline systems and petroleum pipeline systems work and how they are constructed.

Pipeline operators are committed to safety

Pipeline companies, like the Energy for Education sponsors, have crafted their pipeline systems to rigid federal and state construction and operational standards, but they value safety because it's the right thing to do.  Even before a pipeline is placed in service, operator companies carefully select the most practicable route with the least safety concern.  Operators monitor their lines 24-hours a day, maintain comprehensive integrity management programs, and conduct preventative maintenance regularly.  Perhaps most importantly, operators partner with communities regarding pipeline safety, including local government officials, emergency repsonse agencies, schools like yours, families and area businesses. 

Energy products in a pipeline pose little threat to surrounding public; however, pipeline products can be dangerous to life, property and the environment if released unintentionally.  To understand the specific hazards of the pipeline near you, research the pipeline through the National Pipeline Mapping System.  The pipeline product is shared there and can help you understand the risks (health, flammability, etc.) of the specific pipeline in proximity to you. 

Finding Pipelines Near You

Pipeline companies place signs, called pipeline markers, at regular intervals to mark the general location of pipelines.  Markers are located in pipeline rights-of-way, at road and railroad crossing and at all aboveground facilities.  Markers can vary in shape, size and color, but all include the product transported, the pipeline operator's name and an emergency contact number (always call 911 in an emergency).  Learn more at the U.S. Department of Transportation's Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration. You can also find the location of transmission pipelines and aboveground facilities near your home or business by visiting the National Pipeline Mapping System, an online mapping program managed by the U.S. Department of Transportation. The NPMS does not include distribution or gathering pipelines.  

Your role in pipeline safety: pipelines outside your home or business

One-Call is a national free service created to protect you from unintentionally damaging underground utility lines while digging.  One-Call will alert underground utility operators in the area you plan to dig to mark their facilities.  By dialing 8-1-1 (a free number), you will be automatically connected to the One-Call center near you. When a One-Call alert is made, pipeline companies, will mark the location of pipelines with yellow marker flags.

Always call 811 at least two days before you plan to dig. It most cases it's not just a good idea – it's the law.

The best way to identify a leak outside your home is by using eyes, ears and nose.  Many energy products are colorless, tasteless and odorless.  Always call 911 if you suspect a leak based on any of the following:

  • Strong petroleum scent or other pungent odor (rotten eggs)
  • Dead vegetation, liquid or fire on the ground near a pipeline
  • Dirt being blown into the air
  • Dense white cloud or fog
  • Unusual hissing, gurgling or roaring sounds

Gas distribution companies add odorants to the odorless, tasteless and invisible gas that goes into homes and businesses.  If you smell a distinctive sulfur (rotten egg) scent, leave the area immediately and warn others to stay away.  Don't do anything that may cause a spark, including flipping a switch.  Instead, from a safe distance call 911.

Gas distribution companies own the natural gas pipelines up to your home or business's meter.  If you have gas appliances (clothes dryer, water heater, stovetop, fireplace, etc.) in your property, have the lines that connect to these appliances periodically inspected by a professional.  Some gas companies will inspect these lines and their connections for you; a plumber can also help.

Know what carbon monoxide poisoning is and how you can prevent it.  Carbon monoxide is a poisonous gas that is colorless, odorless, tasteless and non-irritating.  It can be toxic to the point of serious illness or even death.  Consider installing carbon monoxide detectors and never use natural gas ranges for heating, which could cause dangerous levels of carbon monoxide to build up in your home or building.

Normally, there is no reason to shut off your natural gas service.  Unlike gathering or transmission lines, though, if you suspect a problem you can turn the shutoff valve – usually located as the first fitting on the natural gas supply pipe coming out of the ground next to your meter.  Turn until perpendicular to the pipe.  Once it is off, you must leave it off until your gas distribution company has been contacting and a representative comes to check the system and turn back on.

For More Information

The sponsor companies of Energy for Education are available to answer any additional questions you may have regarding pipeline safety around and in your home or business.  For immediate questions, continue to the review the website or email  For specific operator questions about safety, you can view records at the U.S. Department of Transportation Pipeline & Hazardous Materials Safety Administration site.  Or find a number for an operator on a pipeline marker near you.


The deadline to sign up for the 2016-2017 school year has concluded. If you have any questions, please contact