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LEPC focuses on mass communication and public information

By Staff | Jan 15, 2014

Following their monthly meeting, some Local Emergency Planning Committee members traveled to the Office of Emergency Management, where they attended a tutorial about the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management's (DHSEM) system, E Team. DHSEM Region II Liaison Mike Walker navigated them through the site, which is a vital form of communication during and after emergencies.


Staff Writer

Tyler County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) members gathered on Jan. 9 for their first meeting of 2014, a year in which their primary focus will be Mass (Public) Notification.

LEPC Co-chair and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Director Tom Cooper discussed the Jan. 2 explosion at the Jay-Bee Oil & Gas Lisby well pad located on Big Run Road out Indian Creek. He said the Department of Environmental Protection is still investigating the incident. He also informed the group that the site has received a “cease to operate” order until the company figures out what went wrong, how they are going to fix it, how they are going to clean it, up and how they will prevent it from happening again.

“There was one injury,” said Cooper. “He had some burns to his face. It (the explosion) blew him off the platform and messed up his ankle.”

He stated that the ankle injury was the worst, while the facial burns were not critical. According to him, the injured man has been treated and released from the hospital.

“We’re not here to put down a company,” he said of the LEPC’s role following such events. “We’re here because, when we figure out what happened, we want to share it with other people.”

He pointed out several oil and gas representatives at the meeting and mentioned how their companies cooperate with each other when it comes to safety matters and improving standards.

“If there’s an issue, everyone’s going to know about it,” he said. “That’s part of our job, too. If we find out what happened, we see that other people in the county know about it.”

“I think it’s also important to keep the people in the area updated and safe,” added member Lisa Jackson.

Darren Dodson of Noble Energy discussed a training he will lead following the LEPC’s February meeting. The purpose of that training will be to educate volunteers and first responders about new hazard warnings being implemented in June 2015.

“OSHA has put out what they call a Hazard Communication Standard Pictogram,” he said. “It’s going to be the new standard in hazard communications. It gives the person that may come in contact with chemicals a picture of the hazards that are present. Next month, following the LEPC meeting, we’re going to bring in our trainers and talk about the pictogram. We’d love to implement it this year, and we want to make sure you guys are familiar with it and have an understanding so you know what it is when you see it.”

LEPC Chairman Pat Walsh of Proviron America Inc. described the pictogram as a globalization of the hazard communications standard.

Noble Energy will also hold an “Oil Field Awareness for First Responders” training on Feb. 8 at 9 a.m. in the Middlebourne Fire Hall.

Cooper then updated the group regarding the school radio station project. In the event of an emergency, the OEM will run emergency broadcasts from Knights Radio 91.5 WRSG, which runs 24 hours a day. Considering that a power failure may also occur during an emergency, a generator will be kept onsite at the tower rather than in the studio, and the OEM will run the station from its office, sending regular emergency broadcasts and updates directly to the tower.

“We haven’t worked on it this past month because of the weather,” he explained. “Our work now will be outside.”

Cooper updated the group on mitigation funding that may be used to purchase more generators for places such as the Sistersville General Hospital and the Tyler County Senior Center, where OEM operates.

“There’s a large pot of (government) money that can only be spent on mitigation,” he said. “Whatever the disaster costs, FEMA gives you 15 percent afterward to use for mitigation. Mitigation is for something you can’t prevent, but you mitigate it to lessen the impact. We’re aggressively pursuing that money because we have good uses for it.”

In other public notification news, Cooper talked about their continuing efforts to install more emergency sirens throughout the county.

“We’ve discussed getting the sirens all working in the county and possibly adding more to a couple locations,” he said.

He said Mitch Wilcox of Momentive will be assisting them with this project.

Cooper relayed the events of an informational meeting he and member Don Collins attended in Wheeling. The meeting was sponsored by Esri, a company he described as the world leader in Geographical Information Systems (GIS).

“They want to start something with local emergency managers, with a few of us in the panhandle, to build something (online). Then they will give emergency managers throughout the world access to it. The panhandle is very unique geographically. They wanted to do it here because GIS in our community will help. We had a very productive meeting. We laid out the groundwork and now we’re going to start building this online mapping system.”

He said their CriPos system, which provides quick information to first responders on a number of emergency response scenarios, already uses some Esri maps.

“We’ll be able to add maps to our website,” he said of the database’s increasing functions. “It will later have the ability to generate detours.”

For this purpose, the group will be seeking the use of five online Esri accounts currently unused by the assessor’s office.

Continuing with CriPos, Cooper said that adding communications to the system may resolve problems he has had contacting volunteers through other programs. He said he has spoken with the system’s engineer about the possibilities.

“We can log into CriPos and select who we want to talk to, click a button, and it will call them and give them a voice message, as well as send an email with text,” he said of the anticipated updates.

Cooper said the engineer plans on making Don Williams, a Homeland Security instructor from Wood County, a local instructor of CriPos. What the Tyler County OEM and LEPC have helped to develop with the system will be shared with all participating counties.

Cooper also proposed using the Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) within CriPos.

“It’s possible to put the federal IPAWS tool into our database,” he said. “We don’t have to go to another database to trigger all of this. It all comes from one database and one message, and it can all be tied together to trigger everything from sirens to Twitter.”

Cooper said that newer cell phones are already designed to receive IPAWS notifications.

He revealed that changes are coming to the OEM website as well.

“We found some ways to update it,” he said. “It hasn’t been implemented yet, but it’s almost completely built. It will give us several new features and link us to Twitter and Facebook. The existing domain name (tylerwv.com) won’t change.”

Cooper reported that all who recently applied to become voting members of LEPC were approved by the Tyler County Commission.

Proviron America Inc. sponsored breakfast, which was prepared by the Sistersville Ladies Fire Auxiliary. Noble Energy will sponsor breakfast for February’s meeting. Breakfast costs $200 to sponsor and is tax deductible as a fundraising contribution to the Sistersville Fire Department.

Businesses, organizations and delegates represented at the meeting included: a delegate from Senator Manchin’s Office; Noble Energy; Tyler County 911; Tyler County Community Emergency Response Team; Tyler County Search and Rescue; Middlebourne EMS; Tyler County OEM; Myers Funeral Home; Dominion; the West Virginia Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management; Sistersville General Hospital; Tyler County Schools; Triad Hunter; the Red Cross; and Tyler County Commission.

The previous meeting’s minutes are slated to be approved at the next meeting, which is planned for Feb. 6 at 9 a.m. in the Sistersville Fire Hall.