LEPD exercise procedures to change

Friday, August 5, 2011

The state is changing the way Local Emergency Planning Committees and Local emergency Planning Districts perform annual emergency exercises to evaluate local emergency response as a required part of the obligations to receive state funding.

Local Emergency Planning District (LEPD) members were informed of the changes at their July meeting by David Compton, Barry County Emergency Management director.

"We will be required to take part in three events annually," Compton said. "Actual events will not count as exercises."

Compton said paperwork from Homeland Security would have to be utilized for the exercises or they won't count, and if needed improvements are identified as a portion of the exercise, then they will have to be completed as well.

"If we host an exercise and identify the need for 30 additional computers, we will have to get those computers or we will lose funding," Compton said.

The problem comes from identifying potential roadblocks to handling emergency operations and not having the funding approved by county commissioners.

"If we do this exercise and identify a need for 30 computers, they will say 'It's good that you identified that need,' but the funding to make those improvements just isn't there," said Compton.

In other news, Compton gave a brief review of the National Level Earthquake Exercise (NLE) that took place immediately prior to the May 22 Joplin tornado.

Compton said that officials were still fielding calls concerning the Joplin tornado as of July.

"We challenged some people in leadership roles and learned from it," Compton said. "The NLE pushed us further toward finalizing strike team leader training in the state. The strike team concept was helpful from a medical perspective.

"However, I think four exercises a year is a little bit of overkill," Compton said, "and regionally based exercises won't be treated the same locally."

Compton said the exercises could not include any element that might happen on a local basis, which excludes lake events, the airport and treatment plant and many industry scenarios.

"I think the lessons are geared toward keeping attention on the larger focus," said Robert Ward, Aurora Fire Chief. "There are inherent similarities in any event."

In old business, Compton said scheduling and preparing for an upcoming Hazardous Waste Operations and Emergency Response (Haz-Woper) training had not been finalized as yet. Several industry leaders are hoping to be able to participate in the classes, which are geared toward public works employees.

Plans are being made to host a 40-hour class locally, with participants paying a portion of the tuition fees for materials and training.

The 40-hour course will include exercises with personal protective equipment and air masks.

"This will be real-life training," Compton said. "As soon as plans are finalized, we will announce how many openings will be available for governments and industries."

Local issues in emergency management included a tanker truck overturning on Highway OO in Lawrence County. The responding agencies in Mt. Vernon have yet to submit a bill for reimbursement for chemicals and materials used during the containment and clean-up efforts.

Two meth labs were also torn down and disposed of for the month of June. Aurora Fire Department and the Missouri State Highway Patrol's Combined Ozark Multi-jurisdictional Enforcement Team (C.O.M.E.T.) participated in taking those labs down.

The next meeting of the LEPD will be at 10 a.m. on Thursday, Aug. 18, at the Community Room of the Monett Justice Center at 1901 E. Cleveland in Monett.

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