That’s the question residents of Eastin Road and Mariemont Drive, as well as students and staff at Bryan Station High School and Middle School, had to answer a week ago. Last Thursday afternoon, a drilling crew struck a subterranean pocket of natural gas, filling a north Lexington neighborhood with potentially explosive fumes. About a dozen households were evacuated for several hours while responders from multiple agencies worked to render the immediate hazards safe.
This was a naturally-occurring pocket of natural gas (the gaseous equivalent of crude oil, if you will), but Lexington frequently experiences similar small incidents when a contractor or homeowner strikes a natural gas line while digging. Fayette County also hosts two interstate highways, two major rail routes, and several state highways, all of which are used to transport a wide variety of hazardous materials every day.All these factors mean you don’t have to live near a major industrial facility to potentially be impacted by a hazardous chemical release. While responders are able to handle most such situations within a few hours, as was the case last Thursday, some spills are so large, complex, or toxic that they may take several days to resolve. Also, events like this usually occur with no advance warning.
Chemical spills and the resulting evacuations should be included in your household emergency plan. What would you do if a firefighter knocked on your door and asked you to evacuate immediately – and told you you couldn’t start your car because of the risk of explosion? Do you have the essentials you’d need in an emergency kit that you can carry a few blocks to get out of the “hot zone?” Do you know how to shut off your utilities on the way out the door?