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Carter County, TN

Region Faces Gasoline Shortage - Emergency Services Prepare

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John M. Dabbs
John M. Dabbs
Empty Gas StationSergio Souza/Pexels

Tennessee, along with 16 other states, (and Washington, D.C.) received a temporary service hours exemption from the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT) on Sunday. USDOT officials say the exemption is one part of the government's effort to assess the pipeline attack.

The emergency declaration provides regulatory relief for motor carriers/drivers providing help, supporting emergency relief efforts by transporting gas and fuel into the affected states. Regional Emergency Declaration is being made the USDOT-Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (ESC-SSC-WSC - Regional Emergency Declaration 2021-002 - 05-09-2021).

Cyber-attack could affect availability and price

Fuel prices and outages will fluctuate based on the Colonial Pipeline situation, according to analysts. The Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) reminds us there are other pipelines in Tennessee. The Colonial Pipeline does direct fuel to Nashville and Knoxville airport locations, which affects many distributors.

Local emergency officials remind us it is currently a cybersecurity issue, not a lack of products. The magnitude of the cyber-attack is a major one for the history books.

"My instincts right now tell me this is a major event for the history of cybersecurity but not necessarily for fuel supplyor fuel prices.If the pipeline remains down for another four days, it'll get dicier." - Tom Kloza, Oil Price Imformation Service analyst says

Asheville, North Carolina gas stations took a big hit yesterday. A run on gas stations had most in the city out of fuel before the end of the day. Local EMS Assistant Director, Anthony Roberts of Carter County Emergency & Rescue Squad said it was a buying frenzy. He attributes the sell-out to the North Carolina governor's emergency declaration. He says it put people in a panic buying mode - just like we saw with toilet paper in the early stages of the pandemic.


Officials at Colonial Pipeline, which suffered from the cyber attack on Friday of last week, is attempting to restore flow incrementally, in sections. Sullivan and Washington County emergency officials are asking people not to panic. They say normal gas buying patterns are sustainable. A run on gas and everyone unneccesarily filling their tanks could lead to a shortage as in Asheville.
PipelineQuinten De Graaf/Unsplash

Colonial's 5.5 hundred mile pipeline system runs from Texas to new Jersey. it carries over 100 million gallons of petroleum products to the east coast, from refineries along the Gulf of Mexico. Colonial provides near 45% of the petroleum products in the eastern U.S. coast.

Tennessee impact

GasBuddy petroleum analysts Kloza and Patrick DeHaan say the national average for gas prices is unlikely to move more than a few cents. The average price in Tennessee is $2.744 today, up from Monday's $2.717. Only last week the average was $2.694 (statistics from the American Automotive Association - AAA). The national average last week was $2.913, and it's $2.985 per gallon as of this morning (AAA).

DeHaan says this is more of a supply challenge, as these types of events are not necessarily big price movers. It's a distribution challenge.


EMS and other emergency service officials are working with state and local emergency management officials to plan for shortages. The move is not unusual. EMS, fire, police, and rescue agencies typically go through such exercises.

It's the "mitigation mentality" said Anthony Roberts. "We are used to planning and being prepared. We keep an eye on the political and business climate, not to mention the weather. Everyone expects us to be able to respond in an emergency. We work together with county and city officials to make sure we are all covered and have contingency plans in place."
Planning sessionPriscilla Du Preez

EMS agencies in several counties in Northeast Tennessee have agreements with their local farmers' co-op to purchase fuel in emerencies. EMS Deputy Chief Stacy Mahan, of Sullivan County EMS, said he learned many truck stops keep an emergency reserve of fuel for emergency vehicles in emergencies. He credits serving as the Ambulance Strike Team leader for several hurridane deployments for learning about the practice.

Many municipal and county agencies have their own fuel storage tanks for government vehicles. They will fill any emergency needs through state or federal channels if the problem becomes severe.

Filling up

One can't help but speculate about those who are choose to top off all of their gas and fuel tanks this week. When supplies are still available for routine use for a few days, should we overburden the system and cause fuel shortages?

Maybe those purchasing under these circumstances feel obligated to pay for fuel at a higher price than normal, and that is why they choose not to wait. I doubt it. They are most likely being prepared, as a scout would suggest.

Either way, officials are asking that we stick to our normal fuel purchasing regimines and not make a run on the available fuel in the stations. The fuel is available, but it may have to be trucked-into areas where pipelines would normally deliver it. That is the whole purpose of USDOT declaration of emergency, to allow carriers and their drivers to operate for longer periods, to fill the need.

Programmer at workArif Riyanto/Unsplash

Colonial Pipeline Systems hopes to have their whole system up and running again in just a few days. Maybe we should all consider our own cybersecurity.

A few tips:

  1. Keep your software up to date. Turn on automatic updates
  2. Use Anti-virus protection software and firewalls
  3. Use complex passwords, and a password management tool - don't use the same password twice
  4. Use 2-factor or Multi-factor authentication
  5. Learn about Phishing scams - be cautions with e-mails, flyers, and phone calls
  6. Protect your Personal Identifiable Information (PII)
  7. Use your mobile devices securely - use complex mobile passcodes and download apps only from trusted sources
  8. Regularly backup your data
  9. Do not use public wifi without a VPN (Virtual Private Network). VPN services are worth it if you work in public places.
  10. Regularly review your online accounts and credit profiles

These tips are from See their blog and other tips from a plethora of service providers for tips to keep you safe.

You don't want to be the next victim of identify theft or ransomeware like Colonial. You can see what a problem it can be for them. Imagine how it would wreck your life, and your family's.

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