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Dec. 22, 2006

News from the Local Emergency Planning Committee
LEPC Keeps Track of Chemicals Used by Local Industries

Anhydrous ammonia, chlorine, hydrochloric acid, nitrogen oxide, phosgene, and sulfuric acid -- In large amounts, these chemicals can be dangerous to life safety. They are all found on the list of chemicals that are used by industries here in Oswego County.

Chemical safety is a high priority in Oswego County, said Local Emergency Planning Committee Chairman John Kaminski. “We work with industries and facilities that use and store chemicals, local elected officials and first responders who are responsible for public safety, and interested citizens to plan for local response to emergencies and to educate the community about safety,” explained Kaminski.

Formed in 1988 under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA) of the Superfund Amendments Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title III, the Oswego County LEPC has fostered a partnership between facilities that use hazardous materials and emergency personnel who may have to respond to an incident.

“EPCRA requires facilities to report on hazardous chemicals they store or handle, and provides for public access to those reports,” Kaminski said. “The LEPC is a repository for those reports, called 'Tier II' under the law. The reports require basic facility identification information, employee contact information for both emergencies and non-emergencies, and information about chemicals stored at or used by the facility.”

Tier II reports are submitted annually to the LEPC, the State Emergency Response Commission, and the local fire department.

“The reports are due March 1 of each year, and we've had good compliance over the years,” Kaminski said. “Local facilities work very well with the LEPC and local fire departments in emergency preparedness and training. Many of them have hosted safety drills with the LEPC or local response agencies.”

EPCRA has established a list of Extremely Hazardous Substances that facilities must report under Tier II if they meet certain threshold amounts. “Some of these chemicals are used in water or wastewater treatment, some are used in refrigeration, and some in agriculture,” Kaminski noted. “Others are used in various manufacturing processes. If they are improperly used or contained, these chemicals could pose a significant threat to the community.”

Chemical safety is stressed by all. Chlorine, for example, may be fatal if inhaled.

“The facilities using these chemicals know their hazards,” Kaminski said. “They work to minimize the risk of an accident, and they work with emergency officials on plans for immediate notification and preparedness in the event one does occur. Armed with information, people charged with public safety can take the proper precautions to protect emergency responders and the public.

“The public is a partner in emergency preparedness as well,” Kaminski noted. “Local residents should prepare a family disaster sSupplies kit and know what to do if emergency officials knock on their door and tell them to evacuate or shelter-in-place.”

The LEPC Public Education Committee is initiating a campaign to educate the community about what it means to “shelter-in-place” during a chemical emergency.

“Essentially, shelter-in-place means to stay inside and limit outside sources of air,” Kaminski said. “People in the vicinity of a chemical emergency would be given instructions by the first responders on the scene or through an Emergency Alert System message on radio or television stations. If told to evacuate, people would be told to leave in an uphill, upwind direction away from the accident.”

A future LEPC column will provide more details about shelter-in-place as a protective action. Information on the Oswego County LEPC is available by calling 591-9150, or by visiting the Oswego County Emergency Management Office Web page at www.oswegocounty.com/emo.

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