Penn Mar Shopping Center Explodes due to Natural Gas Leak - Forestville, Maryland

Natural Gas Explosion captured on video

Natural Gas Explosion captured on video

A natural gas explosion has injured 8 people and caused the destruction of at least 5 stores at the Penn Mar Shopping Center, located at 3426 Donnell Drive in Forestville, Maryland.

At about 1:23 PM, September 11, 2012, with the gas company on the scene, a flash fire was sparked by a gas explosion. The fire and flying debris injured 7 fire-fighters and a gas worker. Luckily, patrons and employees of the mall had been evacuated minutes earlier.

Only 28 minutes had passed between the time that Maryland fire department received a call about the smell of gas at Penn Mar Shopping Center, and the gas explosion and fire that resulted from the gas leak. Amazingly, the entire event was captured on video.

The building was so heavily damaged firefighters were not able to immediately go back in and search to make sure everyone got out safely.

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Penn Mar Shopping Center, Forestville, Maryland

Listen closely to the audio in the video below and you will be able to hear the discovery of the fire at the back of building, discovered while fire-fighters were venting the natural gas out of the building.

Shortly after, while information is still being gathered about the fire, the explosion itself occurs.

Analysis and Opinion below videos

Videos of Natural Gas Explosion and resulting fire in Forestville, Maryland

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Analysis and Opinion

It's amazing that this explosion and fire was caught on tape. We can be grateful though because it can serve as excellent training material to help people realize the dangers of natural gas.

The most important take-aways from this event is an awareness that there can be very little time between a gas leak report and a natural gas explosion. Getting out quickly is key - especially in a populated area like a shopping mall. Kudos to all the staff on hand who got the mall patrons out safely.

At the same time, it is terrible that so many people were injured.

These are the questions that I think should be answered in response to this event:

What could have been done to protect the fire-fighters and gas company worker?

Should it be standard procedure and training that when there is a gas leak that all appliances be turned off, and doors and windows are opened immediately before leaving? Would there have been time to do so and still keep people safe?

Should the fire-fighters entered the area before the gas company was able to shut off the gas supply? Could that have been done off-site? If not, why not?

What could have caused the leak in the first place? Did the shopping centre have gas detectors scattered throughout the mall to detect any problems asap? If not, why not? Should there be laws requiring all public building to install gas detectors?

Will insurance cover losses of all the parties involved?
Will store owners be protected separately from the mall owners?

Will the structural damage to the rest of the shopping center result in the mall being razed? Will the safety of mall employees and other store owners be protected?

What happens to the rest of the store owners if that's the case? Will they be compensated? Does the community have other shopping venues easily available?

And finally, perhaps most importantly of all, what other energy sources could have been used by the Penn Mar Shopping Center to eliminate all risks associated with the use of natural gas?

Will insurance companies demand a premium for organizations that continue to use natural gas, despite the risks? If not, why not?

What steps can governments take to eliminate the risks of gas explosion and promote, safe, reliable renewable energy - which is cheaper!

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