LEPC discusses future plans
Grants, future training, operation plans, and potential legislation were discussed at the April 11 meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
Volunteer Chris Hoke brought certain aspects of the West Virginia Senate Bill 243 to the committee’s attention, especially regarding what she referred to as a “gag order.” Under a clause in Bill 243, healthcare providers would be prevented from revealing the “trade secrets” of companies involved in well-drilling operations.
Citing that contents of the bill were changing and remained unclear in parts, she expressed concern that patients and other doctors would not be privy to the information of what chemically-induced ailments were being treated, and they would in fact be subject to legal action against them for revealing such information to outside parties not approved by the well’s operator or service provider to know.
“I feel that it’s putting our community’s first responders at risk,” said Hoke. “I just think it’s wrong. There needs to be transparency.”
Representatives of Chesapeake Energy present at the meeting said that they were previously unaware of the bill and its effects, but they assured that all of the chemicals Chesapeake is currently using are publicly disclosed.
West Virginia Senate Bill 243 passed on April 12 and is currently awaiting Governor Tomblin’s signature.
In related news, Tom Cooper, director of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM), discussed potential updates to their CriPos system if they can attain additional state funding.
The CriPos system has been a continuing project. It is a database developed by REPS Inc. in order to provide quick information on nearly any chemical handled in the area. Along with details like critical infrastructures, electrical systems, windows, and potential hazards, the database will ideally store photographs of these structures to help emergency responders be better prepared. Cooper would also like CriPos to act as a registration system describing the expected roles of certain groups and qualified volunteers in the event of a crisis.
The committee made a motion to work on at least two annexes for the Emergency Operations Plan. Particular attention will be paid to incorporating members of the community.
“We need to include local citizens as well as businesses and responders,” said Cooper.
He reported that the shelter exercise a few weeks prior was successful in helping them to make upgrades. Among additional future exercises, he expressed a need for Hazmat training, stating that it would be beneficial if more people in the county learned to use Geiger counters.
“My goal is to get a Geiger counter in each fire department in the county,” he said.
Sistersville Fire Chief Steve Leasure spoke with the Chesapeake representatives about their purchasing the compatible-sized hose attachments for their water trucks and tanks in the event that fire departments from Tyler County are called to one of their sites.
Two Polaris Rangers, attained through grants by the OEM, were loaned to Tyler County fire departments. A six-wheel drive ranger in Sistersville is equipped with firefighting apparatuses, possesses water and foam capabilities, and caries patient care bags. A four-wheel drive Ranger in Middlebourne has a crew cab with a medical rescue bed.
The OEM will be applying for a grant from the State Emergency Management Commission. Breakfast was sponsored by LEPC Chairman Pat Walsh, of Proviron, who also presided over the meeting.
LEPC meets once a month in the Sistersville Volunteer Fire Hall. Breakfast is served and members of the community are welcome.