Andover braces for future disasters

TIM JEAN/Staff photoA utility worker compacts the fill around a new gas line installed on Locke Street in Andover after the gas disaster.

If an event like the September 2018 gas disaster happens again, Andover will be better prepared to keep its people safe and care for those who are injured, town officials said.

They said Andover will implement recommendations from experts hired to critique the town's response to fires and explosions caused by the gas disaster.

The Edward Davis Company, a security consulting firm lead by former Boston Police Chief Edward Davis and former Lowell Police Superintendent William Taylor, has submitted its report on how the town responded to the disaster.

One of the report's key recommendations calls for mapping out the internal infrastructure of companies in Andover, including pipes carrying gas into buildings. That information will be carried on fire trucks so firefighters responding to an emergency at a building can quickly know the risks associated with that property.

Town Manager Andrew Flanagan said his town budget for the coming year includes money to pay for the report's recommendations.

“Any time we move forward with building budgets, we always address critical needs first,” he said.

“We have a responsibility to review our response to a major disaster or critical event,” Flanagan said. “It's important to have an objective, third party do that review. It is standard procedure for an event that was as significant as the gas disaster.''

Other recommendations in the report include sending out phone alerts to residents during emergencies, and using the voice of an easily recognizable local public official on those alerts.

Davis said his firm's review of Andover's response to the gas disaster showed the town handled the situation well.

“The great news is that the town of Andover acted admirably to save lives, to put the fires out and get the community back to normal,” he said.

The cost of the report — $28,000 — is being reimbursed to the town by Columbia Gas, local officials said.

The gas disaster caused by Columbia Gas damaged or destroyed 131 homes and businesses, injured 22 people and caused the death of one person. It caused more than a billion dollars in damage in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.

The disaster, caused by overpressurization of gas lines, affected residents and businesses. Leonel Rondon, 18, of Lawrence, was killed, three firefighters and 19 civilians were hurt, and 50,000 people were forced to evacuate their homes.

Five homes were destroyed and 131 structures damaged, according to findings by the National Transportation Safety Board. Thousands more homes had damaged boilers, stoves, fireplaces and appliances.

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