EPC meets as county, Poarch join forces

Published 10:42 am Wednesday, August 30, 2006

By By Adam Prestridge – Special to The Standard
Escambia County Emergency Management Agency (EMA) director David Adams is attempting to kill two birds with one stone.
Tuesday morning, Adams, along with representatives from several county emergency service departments met during an Emergency Planning Committee (EPC) meeting initiated by the Poarch Band of Creek Indians' emergency management director April Sells. Officials with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) were also on hand at the meeting held on the Poarch Creek Reservation, to address hazardous materials and environmental safety regulations.
Coggins, who represents Southwest Alabama explained to those on hand that it is state mandated for every county to have an Emergency Planning Committee. He also stressed the importance of staying on top of emergency matters within the county.
Even though Coggins touched briefly on natural hazards, the meeting focused in more on hazardous chemicals and other issues, which Henry Hudson of the EPA in Atlanta reviewed.
During his presentation, Hudson went over in detail the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act (EPCRA), which was passed in 1986 following an accident involving chemicals in Bhopal, India on Dec. 3, 1984. The accident killed more than 5,00 people and thousands have suffered from its generational effects ranging from respiratory problems to early death. As a result, requirements from state and county agencies were brought forth to hopefully prevent such tragedies in the U.S.
Among those requirements are the formation of a State Emergency Response Commission (SERCs) and Tribal Emergency Response Commission (TERCs). Local Emergency Planning Districts are designated and a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) is appointed.
Hudson said the community has the right to know what hazards exist around them and how to protect themselves in the event of a release.
The role of the SERCs and TERCs is to coordinate and supervise the LEPC, receive and maintain reports, prepare an emergency response plan and hold drills and public meetings. The reason for the community-wide meeting is because Escambia County officials and the Poarch Band of Creek Indians are planning to join forces.
Adams believes joining forces will keep everyone focused.
Coggins said the EPA's attendance wasn't to just emphasize requirements, but to also be familiar with officials in the event of a hazardous mishap.
Coggins explained that he would like the Escambia County EPC to be prepared for all hazards and train for evacuations, commodities, response and recovery and mitigation.
EPA environmental protection specialist Elisa Roper also explained the CAMEO® program established in 1987, which is an acronym for Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations. The program, which was created as an emergency response tool, is free and has been used by state and Tribal emergency response commissions, fire and police departments, local EPCs, and other organizations. The program helps monitor hazardous materials and warns users in the event of an emergency, while detailing vital information.
Adams said he hopes to have an EPC formed within Escambia County soon, but said it is up to county emergency service departments to chair the committee.

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