385844_1280X720I design over 100 exercises per year and I always tell my clients that the newspaper is full of them. In fact, I encourage my clients to do what we call “ripped from the news.” Find a good story and then review it to your team and work through your assessment and incident action plan (IAP) development in 30 – 45 minutes. A great building of muscle memory.

This recent PG&E gas leak in San Jose, California is a great example of a great exercise narrative. You can make it less or more time out of the buildings or maybe, you end with an explosion to create lots of building damage and longer outages. You could have injuries and deaths or none.  Lots of options!

Here is the genesis of the story: Massive evacuations and shelter-in-place advisories were ordered in a downtown area of Market and Santa Clara streets in San Jose after a large underground gas main was struck. The break, which occurred near a high-rise construction project, was reported at 11:07 a.m. on Market just south of Santa Clara. A large cloud of either smoke or gas was visible in the sky shortly after. The smell of gas was widespread and prevalent.

The fire chief described the problem: a 4-inch gas main was broken by contractors working in the street. PG&E said a backhoe dug too deep and cut through the main. No injuries were reported. Natural gas dissipates nearly as soon as it makes contact with open air, so there was minimal risk to people in the area, according to PG&E.

According to San Jose Fire Department, buildings were evacuated of more than 2,500 people and an equal number were ordered to shelter in place. PG&E crews secured the valves to the gas line about 1 p.m. with plans to crimp the line, but traffic continued to be clogged through the evening commute. Gas was officially shut off to all affected buildings around 5:02 p.m.

The San Jose Police Department was dispatched to help evacuate buildings within at least a one-block radius and direct traffic away from the site. A health fair for the homeless at St. Joseph’s cathedral was shut down because of the leak.

Crews are expected to remain on scene until at least 8 a.m. Saturday, repairing the broken line and restoring gas service to all 50 commercial customers. Drivers in the area can expect continued delays throughout the night, and are asked to find alternate routes through downtown.

It’s a beautiful thing!