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LEPC reviews annexes

By Staff | May 8, 2013

Several sections of Emergency Operations Plans were designated to be reviewed and updated at the May 2 meeting of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).

These sections, or annexes, are specific functions within a larger emergency response plan. Many of them correlate with Emergency Support Functions outlined by the federal government.

As of now, the committee has a total of 18 annexes. Two of them must be updated each year in order for the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to qualify for the Emergency Management Performance Grant. The LEPC and OEM went beyond that requirement.

“That makes four of our Emergency Operation Plan annexes updated last year,” announced OEM Director Tom Cooper, after reviewing which sections were changed in 2012. Those sections pertained to communications, hazardous materials, resource management, and continuity of operations.

Annexes slated for update in 2013 involve search and rescue, shelter center and mass care, public information, fire service, and health and medical.

“If we could find well site plans, we can create an annex just to deal with them,” said Cooper, stating that current plans are not incident-based and should cover any safety hazard involving a well site.

“But it doesn’t hurt to have a specific annex we can use,” he added.

LEPC Chairman Patrick Walsh agreed that even a one paragraph section expressing the “activation” of other annexes in the event of a well site incident would be beneficial to first responders. Rick Powell, a representative of Triad Hunter present at the meeting, agreed to look for a well site template which the group can use to draft such a plan.

Members of the health department discussed a Continuity of Operations Plan (COOP) which they recently participated in, using pandemics as a basis for the exercise.

“One of the things that we do when there is a pandemic is active surveillance,” said Dorothy Lockett, a retiree from the Wetzel-Tyler Health Department.

Through active surveillance, they contact schools to find out how many people are absent and hospitals to find out how many people are displaying symptoms.

“It’s active surveillance,” she said, “meaning we actually have to call them and somehow get the information from them.”

She also mentioned the possibility of updating the CriPos database to allow schools and hospitals to post such relevant information in the event of a pandemic.

“If we had a tool that we could do active surveillance with, particularly the hospitals and schools, that would really get a head start on the process,” Lockett said.

Another matter discussed was the placement of numbers on mailboxes following Tyler County’s recent 911 address changes. It was stated that numbers should be visible on both sides of a mailbox in order to insure that emergency responders can easily locate your home.

Those who want to make sure that an address has been listed correctly on the database can contact 911 Mapping Coordinator Paul LeMasters at 304-758-4275.

Under old business, Volunteer Chris Hoke revisited an issue she had with West Virginia Senate Bill 243, which was signed into effect by Governor Tomblin on April 30. She interprets that the bill protects the “trade secrets” of companies at the expense of those who may be at risk by exposure to fracking materials. She considers that a “gag order” on doctors may prevent them from revealing, even to patients, which chemicals have induced their ailments.

“It is taking away my right,” said Hoke. “It should be put on high medical record. If I get cancer, I’d like to be able to track the fact of what I got exposed to. I just feel that it’s wrong and unethical.”

Hoke stated that, out of 25 representatives she tried to contact, only one of them spoke with her.

“You really wonder in our society why there would be a gag order on what somebody was contaminated with,” said Cooper. “I recognize that point.”

While the group discussed the bill’s potential impact, they felt that most chemicals can already be found on Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) posted at fracking sites. However, it was also noted that it could be listed as Frack Fluid, and the MSDS may only reveal how to treat exposure.

Breakfast was sponsored by Triad Hunter. LEPC meets once a month in the Sistersville Fire Hall. They welcome members of the public who would like to be involved in or simply learn more about emergency preparedness and response.