Oswego County Public Information Office, 46 East Bridge St., Oswego, NY 13126

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Aug. 5, 2005

Safety Tips from the Local Emergency Planning Committee
LEPC Is Built on Partnership Between Industry and Community

Emergency planning for hazardous materials requires a partnership between the facilities that use them, the emergency personnel who may have to respond to an emergency incident, and the community that may be affected.

"It's important for us to know what kind and what amounts of chemicals are stored and used in facilities throughout the county," said Robert Sponable, chair of the Oswego County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). "It helps emergency responders operate safely during an incident at a facility that has hazardous chemicals."

The Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III of 1986 included the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA). The law established LEPCs and state emergency response commissions across the nation. The law requires facilities that use hazardous chemicals in certain quantities to report the kind and amounts they use and store to the local LEPC.

The reports, called "Tier II" forms, are submitted annually to the LEPC, the State Emergency Response Commission, and the local fire department. Tier II reports are available for the public to view through the LEPC. Tier II forms require basic facility identification information, employee contact information for emergencies and non-emergencies, and information about chemicals stored or used by at the facility. The annual reports are due March 1.

These efforts are based on the premise that while the facilities bear the primary responsibility for preventing and mitigating hazardous materials accidents, the community has a right to know what hazards exist. The LEPC and emergency response agencies use the information to be better prepared to respond to emergencies at facilities that have hazardous chemicals. The information also provides a tool that can be used to lower chemical hazards in a community by reducing chemical inventories.

"We're very fortunate to have industries in the county that are being extremely cooperative," Sponable said. "Not only do they advise us in on-scene and safety precautions, they also assist us in emergency planning should there ever be a need for emergency response to their facilities."

The information allows emergency response agencies to plan a safe and effective response to an incident. When firefighters respond to an emergency call and find an unknown tank of chemicals, they must back off until they can identify the chemical and its hazards. Armed with information ahead of time, agencies can work with the facility to determine the best methods of mitigating the release of hazardous chemicals and take the proper precautions to protect emergency responders and the public. Most facilities in the county are familiar with Tier II reporting and are in compliance, Sponable said. Any facilities that need assistance in compliance may contact him through the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 591-9150.

Information is also available on the New York State Emergency Management Office Web site, www.semo.state.ny.us, under SERC; and on the Environmental Protection Agency Web site, www.epa.gov.

"Any manufacturer or company that presently utilizes hazardous materials, who is not already actively involved in the Oswego County LEPC, is most welcome to join us," Sponable said.

Meetings are held quarterly, with the next planned for Sept. 8 at 8 a.m. at the Joint News Center on County Route 176, next to the Oswego County Airport.

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