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U.S. Department
of Transportation

Pipeline Safety Stakeholder Communications

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Fact Sheet: Other Outside Force

Quick Facts:

  • Other Outside Force Damage is one subset of what is sometimes referred to as “Outside Force Damage”.
  • Other Outside Force Damage includes activities caused by outside parties or forces other than through excavation or naturally occurring events, and include events like pipeline failures due to vehicle accidents and vandalism.
  • Other Outside Force Damage causes an extremely small percentage of overall pipeline failures, and typically results in relatively small release volumes.

What is Other Outside Force Damage and why does it occur?

Other Outside Force Damage can include:

  • Vehicle or equipment contact not related to excavation, e.g., an automobile crash into an aboveground valve, pumping station, or other piece of pipeline equipment
  • Damage caused by accidents or fires from other businesses or industries that are nearby
  • Vandalism
  • Sabotage or terrorism

The energy pipeline network extends throughout the entire United States, and includes both belowground and aboveground facilities. In all cases, because pipeline facilities by necessity exist throughout the public domain, they are potentially subject to the full range of these types of events.

What are the risks from Other Outside Force Damage?

Pipeline failures due to Other Outside Force Damage are rare. When they do occur, the consequences can vary greatly. Most susceptible to this particular type of damage are pipeline facilities which are located aboveground, and which are in close proximity to highways or large population and industrial centers.

What is being done to prevent Other Outside Force Damage?

Pipeline design and construction regulations require that operators secure their facilities and protect them from unauthorized access. In almost all cases, this results in aboveground facilities which are protected by fencing with locked gates, with the larger facilities further protected by 24-hour staffing, security patrols, and/or remotely monitored surveillance cameras. In addition, many of the aboveground facilities that are in proximity to roadways, highways, and other traffic corridors are further protected by crash guards, railing, or other means. To protect against terrorism and sabotage, additional security requirements have recently been promulgated, with protective measures implemented in accordance with security-based assessments of critical or key facilities.

Other Outside Force Damage: What more can be done?

  • Public : Be aware of pipelines located near you. Be observant for signs of pipeline damage, leakage, or security concerns. Report any concerns you have regarding pipeline safety to the pipeline operator immediately. Always respect the pipeline right-of-way. In the area of pipelines, be observant of changes to soils and vegetation, possible earth movement, or other possible conditions that could stress pipelines, and report such incidents to the pipeline operator immediately. Note any suspicious activity that may be security-related – especially at aboveground facilities, such as valve sites or pumping stations, and report to your local public safety official and the pipeline operator immediately
  • Industry : Pipeline operators and industry stakeholders can continue to monitor and share industry experience with these types of occurrences. Operators can fully explore the potential for these threats to exist during their ongoing risk assessment process, and respond accordingly.
  • Regulators : OPS must continue to work closely and in cooperation with federal, state, and local security entities. OPS must continue to inspect operators’ integrity management programs to ensure they are effectively identifying and assessing these potential threats and are implementing appropriate activities in a timely manner

Outside Force Damage: Where can I learn more?

Date of Revision: 07292014