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News From the Local Emergency Planning Committee

Planning and Training Behind the Scenes for a Safer Community

March 24, 2004

LEPC Has Key Role in Planning for Chemical Emergencies

Disasters involving hazardous materials can occur at any time of the day or night. Chemicals used in major manufacturing plants, homes and small businesses can ignite at the slightest spark. Other hazardous substances can be fatal to humans and animals if they're inhaled or ingested. Products containing hazardous materials are transported daily on highways and railroads through Oswego County.

In Oswego County, the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) has taken several steps to prepare for an emergency involving dangerous chemicals. The County Fire Coordinator's Office trains haz-mat teams and other responders in the proper procedures and equipment to handle events such as explosions, chemical releases and oil spills. They play a key role in the county's emergency planning efforts.

What is the LEPC?

The Local Emergency Planning Committee was formed as a result of the federal Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act of 1986. Its purpose is to provide citizens and emergency responders with information about chemicals in the communities where they live and work. The law requires that communities plan for chemical emergencies and establish a chain of command to make sure that requirements are met. The Local Emergency Planning Committee is part of that chain of command.

The LEPC doesn't plan emergencies - it plans for them. Worst-case scenarios become the focus of intensive exercises that test communications, command and control, field operations, equipment, and other aspects of an emergency response plan. Emergency responders from industries, community organizations and government agencies work hand-in-hand to share information and training opportunities. Drills are held every year in different areas of the county to test and enhance our skills.

Who is on the LEPC?

Robert Sponable, a lieutenant in the Fulton Fire Department and a member of the Fulton City and County haz-mat teams, currently chairs the LEPC. The LEPC is a cross-section of people from local industry, emergency responders, government and human service agencies.

Industries represented on the LEPC include Alcan Rolled Products, Nine Mile Point Nuclear Site, NRG, Entergy Nuclear-Northeast, Huhtamaki, International Foods/Birdseye, Interface Solutions, and the Metropolitan Water Board of Onondaga County.

Several departments of county government are involved in the LEPC. They include the Emergency Management Office, Promotion and Tourism Department, Fire Coordinator and County Haz-Mat Team, Emergency Medical Services and Environmental Divisions of the County Health Department, Legislature Chairman's Office, and Sheriff's Office.

Other community members include the State Emergency Management Office, State Police, Oswego Fire Department, Oswego Mayor's Office, Fulton Fire Department, Fulton Mayor's Office, Oswego Hospital, Lee Memorial Hospital, Onondaga-Oswego Chapter American Red Cross, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES), Oswego County Opportunities Transportation and media representatives.

When do they meet?

The LEPC meets as a full committee four times a year. Subcommittees meet more frequently to work on special projects and plan training exercises. The next meeting of the LEPC is scheduled for June 10. Meetings are open to the public. Call the County Emergency Management Office at 591-9150 for more information.

Providing education and information to the public are important components of the LEPC's mission. Look for more information about the LEPC, and how citizens can prepare for emergency situations, over the next few months in this newspaper.

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