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LEPC continues its preparedness projects

By Staff | Nov 13, 2013

Tables were filled at the Nov. 7 Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting, where discussion focused on emergency preparation projects. LEPC meetings, held at 9 a.m. in the Sistersville Fire Hall, are generally slated for the first Thursday of every month. Breakfast is prepared by the Sistersville Ladies Fire Auxiliary, and the public is welcome to attend.

Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director and LEPC Co-chairman Tom Cooper gave an update regarding the School Radio Station Project.

“We’re going to try to run the school’s 24-hour FM radio station around the clock, even when the power’s down,” he said. “We’re looking at installing a generator on site and streaming internet from my office to the tower site. That way we will be able to go into it remotely from anywhere and send messages out with that FM station.”

He said Scott Northcraft of 93R and Kenny Harris, head of Wood County Emergency Communications, helped put the antennae on the school’s radio station tower. He added that they are hoping to secure funds for a self-starting generator.

“If we can get this the way we want it, we can run the station from our Emergency Operations Center and broadcast updates,” said Cooper. “If we let the station go dead, no one will be listening. We want to keep it running even during a disaster and then have scheduled messages.”

Cooper said that three or four members of the group participated in the annual Momentive Safety Exercise. Although other Momentive Exercises in the past were more inclusive, he explained that this recent exercise was limited. He described Momentive as a key player in LEPC activities and clarified that the reason for limited attendance was due to high numbers of participation during the last two events.

“In order for us to get our grant money for our committee, we have to participate in an exercise like that,” he explained. “We were in it, we got our credit.”

Dave Maxwell, acting chief of the Sistersville Volunteer Fire Department, said that he would like to see better communications during such exercises.

“If it was a real event, it would have gone flawless, but the fact that you have to stage so many things at once makes it difficult,” said Cooper. “I think communications would have been better in a real event. Quite honestly, our communications are getting better daily.”

He reported that the updated LEPC bylaws were approved by the Tyler County Commission. According to Cooper, only one significant change was made. Under that change, requests for information regarding the content of chemicals will be sent by the LEPC to their state branches. He explained that the reason for this was to keep information about chemicals from those who might use that information for negative purposes.

Committee Member Don Collins asked if that was a state-requested change.

“At a conference a couple of months ago the state suggested we do that,” answered Cooper. “It’s quicker just to give it to them. They take a quick look and send it right back.”

After the committee voted to approve the updated bylaws, LEPC Chairman Pat Walsh said they would be sent to the state level for approval.

Cooper said he was informed by a West Virginia Homeland Security Representative of possible mitigation funding that may be available for the LEPC. He explained that a percentage of funds spent by FEMA is set aside for mitigation. Mitigation funding is meant to lessen the effects of an emergency situation the next time it might occur. He cited the derecho of 2012 and said that funding could possibly go toward generators.

Tyler County schools’ Child Nutrition and Safety Director Amanda Kimble asked about the possibility of attaining a generator for Tyler Consolidated, which becomes a shelter in the event of an emergency situation. According to her, that generator could help preserve the food already stored there.

In future plans, the committee discussed making 2014 the year of Mass Notification.

“Mass notification refers to how we notify the public,” explained Cooper. “That’s something I’d like to work on next year for this committee. When we talk mass notification, we’re talking everything from sirens to Twitter and everything in between.”

They handed out a list of ways to talk to the public.

“There are a lot of ways to reach the public,” he said. “Quite frankly it takes every one of them to get to every person. There’s no one way to talk to everyone.”

Each year, the committee must update at least two of their annexes. Cooper said that he would like the Mass Notification Annex and another one regarding the duties of the Public Information Officer to be updated in 2014. The committee voted to approve that measure. Many of those alert systems may also be used at times other than emergencies to keep the public aware.

Tyler County Commissioner Charles “Pork” Smith welcomed questions regarding the county’s new life-flight insurance deal with Air Evac.

“If you’re a resident of Tyler County, your life-flight insurance is paid for,” he said. “There is some confusion as to where you’re covered. You’re covered if you’re flown out of Tyler County and any adjoining counties.”

He said that, because residents of Tyler County were often transferred by ambulance to Wheeling, Parkersburg, or Marietta before being flown, Air Evac added Ohio County, W.Va., Wood County, W.Va., Washington County, Ohio, and Monroe County, Ohio.

“So if you’re a resident of Tyler County, it won’t cost you a penny to be life-flown out of any of those places. Their (Air Evac’s) most extensive plan covers you pretty much the whole eastern part of the United States. If you want that (upgrade), it will cost you $35 a year.”

He also said that elected officials in Tyler County were not accepting this free insurance, so there was no conflict of interest. It was also clarified that the deal with Air Evac is year to year and expressly covers those who live in Tyler County, not those who work in the county or are flown by medical helicopter from within its borders.

Regarding the ongoing development of the CriPos System, Cooper said that the software developer is applying for a new grant that will hopefully allow him to include the health department, law enforcement, fire, and EMS in the system. He said they will not know until next meeting at earliest if they will get the grant.

It was also reported that Noble Energy is putting on an Oil Field Awareness Exercise for first responders. The two possible dates for the exercise are Jan. 11 and Feb. 8, the latter date being preferential.

“It’s for those who may find themselves responding to an oil field event,” said Cooper. “The responders can decide where the exercise occurs.”

Revised annexes regarding Shelter and Mass Care Guidance were handed out. Cooper said they will probably vote on these updated annexes next meeting.

Kim Eidel of Middlebourne EMS Unit #1 discussed their new ambulance.

“It’s a really nice ambulance,” she said. “It’s nice to be in one where not everything’s computerized. When you’re in a hurry and in a situation, you don’t have time to try to figure out the computer. It’s also good that you don’t have to worry about breaking down. We really appreciate being able to have it.”

She also noted that the gas companies and community were generous with helping them attain the ambulance. She said the open house they held for the ambulance on Nov. 6 had a good turnout, with donations received. The unit is still looking for donations.

Cooper noted that tylerwv.com will take the Tyler County OEM website. Minutes of the Oct. 3 meeting were approved. Breakfast for the meeting was sponsored by First Energy. An email reminder will be sent to companies and agencies interested in sponsoring breakfast next meeting.

The next LEPC meeting is planned for Dec. 5 at 9 a.m. in the Sistersville Fire Hall.