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often asbestos out of the hole at a
velocity of as much as 200 miles per
hour. It will also eject slugs of very hot
water, and the condensing steam will
obscure the ruptured pavement and its
A rupture can damage underground
gas and electric utilities, creating a gas
leak, while damaged electric utilities
could provide the ignition source for a
gas-fueled fire. Also, gas may migrate
underground into surrounding build-
ings. Anyone unfortunate enough to be
near the rupture when it occurs may be
instantly killed or severely injured and
unable to escape the scalding steam.
Projectiles ejected by the rupture
can injure and kill pedestrians and
When responding to these incidents,
be aware that it is likely that the under-
ground piping is wrapped in asbestos
and that asbestos will be entrained in
the material spewed from an under-
ground rupture. Request the response
of the utility or other entity responsible
for maintaining the pipeline. These
personnel will be able to stop the flow
of steam and repair the pipes. Stage
upwind from the incident, and test for
asbestos as soon as it is practical. You
should assume that asbestos is present
and that any personnel, equipment, and
civilians exposed are contaminated and
need decontamination. Water lines may
be damaged, which could complicate
any firefighting operations in the area.
Set up the command post (CP) out of
the potential asbestos contamination
area and remote enough so that the
sound of the escaping steam does not
interfere with communications. Consider
setting up incident command inside of a
convenient building. Immediately rescue
incapacitated victims when possible,
remove and exclude civilians from the
affected area, and implement mass
Because of the potential damage to
underground utilities, check surrounding
buildings for the presence of natural gas
and electrical problems and any victims
who may have been trapped or injured.
Rocks, dirt, and debris can break windows in nearby buildings, exposing occupants to scalding steam and putting
them at risk of injury or death.
• Notify the steam utility to respond as
well as the gas and electric utilities as
• Set up the CP where voice communications will be possible. Consider
using a nearby building.
• Wear full PPE if entering the steam
• This is likely an asbestos incident, so
plan for decontamination of firefighters, civilians, tools, apparatus, and
• Rescue and remove those in danger.
This may include pedestrians as well
as those trapped in their vehicles by
• Check buildings for steam infiltration.
Close windows, and shut down the
heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning system.
• Consider evacuating buildings using
exits other than the front entrance