(1) Thread: Merrimack Valley gas line explosions and fires.

There's a lot of panic and misinformation being reported. I'm getting my info from @MassStatePolice & the state fire marshal.

NBC Boston live coverage: nbcboston.com/news/local/Mul…
(2) From the above story. Authorities are not asking residents to turn off their home's gas supply, they are just saying get out of the building asap.

Importantly, using a cell phone can ignite gas if it's built up in the room.
(5) Another source of reliable info, the MA emergency management agency. Accidental over-pressurization of the gas main is the most likely cause IMO. I use #OccamsRazor unless there is credible evidence of a more unusual cause.

(6) De-pressurizing of the gas lines by the supplier is the most practical way to reduce risk atm. People have already expressed confusion about how to shut off their home supply. We should all know how to shut off water, electricity & gas if we have it.

(7) 39 incidents confirmed. One local media outlet says there are >50 incidents. #Andover #NorthAndover #Lawrence #MerrimackValley

Media source: eagletribune.com/news/police-ga…

MA State Police source:
(8) One the Mayors said he believes there was a spike in gas pressure.

Columbia Gas Co. serves 51,000 customers in the area.

Source: wcvb.com/article/lawren…
(9) Two positive things: Only a tiny fraction of the 51,000 customers are affected. The incident occurred during working hours, not overnight when more people would be in their homes.

No injuries reported as yet. That is the most important thing, the risk of injuries & death.
(10) @AndoverMassPD tweeted out this pic, which I applaud. It helps reassure people. Also good to promote one hashtag: #MVGasFire.

"Emergency Operations Center is running - Fire and Police Chief's working the incident. Follow us and @AndoverMaGov for information. #MVGasFire"
(11) In that photo, I think the empty seats are for media personnel. Being so early in this incident management event, only a few reporters have made it in so far. The key thing is that county Police & Fire chiefs are running it jointly, & media are kept up to date.
(12) Spanish language msg:

#ALERTA Residentes de Lawrence/ North Andover /Andover que tienen COLUMBIA GAS -- o si huele gas, deben #EVACUAR sus casas YA.

(ALERT Residents of... who have COLUMBIA GAS - or if they smell gas, they must EVACUATE their homes NOW.)

(13) The key message is: If you are in this area & have gas supply or you smell gas, just get out of the house asap. Don't switch off lights, use phone inside, or anything.


(14) Message re Andover. There are still ongoing issues in North Andover and Lawrence.

(15) Injuries reported:

#Andover: At least one firefighter, at least two civilians.

My sense is that the sheer scale of this ongoing major emergency across three towns prevented first responders from publicly reporting injuries before now. #MVGasFire
(16) A reminder that the fire & police depts involved are fully occupied with the emergency response & any donated goods right now will just get in the way. Please do not deliver any items unless they ask. Most PDs and FDs have a charitable foundation. #CashIsKing #SecondDisaster
(17) And please think very carefully before donating to a gofundme after these gas fires in MA. Scams are rife. Your donation is more fairly and efficiently utilized if you give it to a trusted charity, such as a FEMA-endorsed @NationalVOAD member. nvoad.org
(18) I've only gone as far as saying the cause MIGHT be over-pressurization. I wouldn't dream of discussing what might have caused that (some are!).

Even what I said may have been going too far. We must respect the 48 hour rule.


(19) Content of above tweet by @debradelai, who knows the Merrimack Valley extremely well:

"It's too early to talk.
What caused the spike in pressure?
Human error? Sabotage? Obsolete system?

This is not a bursting main pipe.

48 hour rule applies."
(20) I'm going to stick with just ONE information source on the major #MSGasFire incident, for now. MA State Police have been doing an excellent job.

(21) Shutting off an entire town's power supply increases risk of accidental injury & also crime. Mass evacuation a good idea IMO.

A major incident requires a major response. The more YOU can be ready for emergencies, the better it will go.

Tweet link:
(22) We've known for years that Twitter employs low-skilled workers to tweak what is shown under it's "Trending" feature.

"Gas line ruptures" is technically accurate but needlessly provocative. The brain generates an image based on previous experiences.

(23) If Twitter WANTED to employ workers for this task who had adequate skills, the description would have said something like:

"Fires and explosions in homes across Boston-area neighborhood due to gas line problem."

FIRES and EXPLOSIONS are alarming enough at this time.
(24) Whether and what type of ruptures were involved is not important in these first few hours when trained professionals are working a very major emergency incident and they need the public not to panic.

And the scale should not be exaggerated in the way Twitter did.
(25) At time of writing, the @MassStatePolice confirmed response to fires OR explosion OR investigation of gas odor at 70 properties. Out of, IDK, >150,000?

Does that sound a bit less alarming than "fires and explosions erupt in homes across Boston area neighborhood"?
(26) Thankfully the gas incident near Boston Friday did not cause widespread injury and damage, An 18 year old man died and >10 firefighters suffered non life threatening injuries. Psychological distress was and is widespread. Here's a free resource:

(27) Outstanding work by all @MassStatePolice personnel and those from dozens of other local & state agencies. #MVGasFire

(28) When I write these breaking news threads about a major emergency or crime incident, my main goal is promoting the safety of those affected. The authorities handling the #MVGasFires have that well under control.

I am ignoring the politicized drama. Waiting for #facts.
(29) At 3pm today, MA Gov Charlie Baker (R) declared a state of emergency. IMO this was an excellent decision, & the MA govt website info for residents & media is outstanding.

Document (includes b/g info): mass.gov/doc/state-of-e…

Website info: mass.gov/news/governor-…
(30) The Democrat narrative is that Gov Baker "had to" take this action, solely because it enabled him to have an alternative gas company take over the response, bc Columbia Gas is so "shady."

As usual, this is full of deliberate lies & it politicizes a tragedy.
(31) Any mass emergency/disaster occurs in a context where certain political angles can be promoted by those who place their own gain ahead of the public interest in basic safety & the preservation of life.

We do not yet know what caused this emergency.

(32) It is perfectly normal for a state of emergency to be declared in such a situation, regardless of a decision to use an alternative gas company to manage the response.

It confers a multitude of practical benefits and has no net disbenefits.
(33) It is also perfectly normal to use an alternative gas company. Indeed, I'd wager that this policy option is recorded in the emergency plans of most other states and countries.

It assists the integrity of the investigation, & maintains public trust and morale,
(34) The investigation will review the performance of all possible actors in this incident, not just Columbia Gas. Self employed gasfitters. Homeowners. Other tradesmen and women. There is no limit to who the investigators will investigate.

It is premature to single out CG.
(35) Attacking Columbia Gas at this time does nothing to respond to the emergency, investigate the cause, or prevent harm. It is neither useful nor necessary.

It also has a negative impact on staff & investors, who likely had zero to do with anything, & who don't deserve this.
(36) Now, onto another matter. Tragically, Leonel Rondon, 18, died after an explosion caused a chimney to topple onto his car.

Most of the heavy chimneys on homes should be removed or replaced, wherever they are. Here's why:
(37) When most brick chimneys were built, lack of practical alternatives or awareness of the risk meant they were common.

The 2011 earthquake in Christchurch, NZ, where I lived at the time, killed 185 people. Some people were killed or permanently disabled by falling chimneys.
(38) I'd wager that heavy home chimneys should be removed not just in CA, OR, WA AK & HI, but in other states where less severe earthquakes have occurred recently.

Cheap, safer alternatives are now available. Why not reduce one type of risk. Especially on new builds.
(39) We can't remove all risk. I know that. Emergency/disaster management geeks like me dream abt encouraging everyone to do more, take reasonable precautions.

I know it's just a dream, but it helps me get thru the day. I never saw the earthquake coming. That's why I do this.

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