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Agency preps for hazards

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Hazardous materials are everywhere, which makes having a plan of action in case of an emergency crucial.

Because an unknown number of semi trucks and tanker trucks carrying various types of potentially hazardous chemicals and materials use Interstate-70 to cross the midsection of Clay County, the Clay County Local Emergency Planning Commission is preparing for the worst.

On May 14, an accident at the eastbound 23-mile marker on I-70 closed the road to traffic while HAZMAT technicians cleared the area of residue from a spill of organic peroxide and leaking diesel fuel. Although no one was injured during the incident, traffic was backed up for hours while crews cleared the area of debris.

Clay County Emergency Management Director and LEPC Chairman Bryan Husband recently told The Brazil Times the accident is a reminder that emergency response personnel needs to be prepared for when the situation could be much worse.

"It would really surprise you to know what type of materials are transported on I-70, through our county," He said. "When an accident occurs involving a semi, it can be carrying anything on the interstate, from battery acid to fuel oil to baby food. The semi literally could be carrying anything."

Husband said the interstate is not the only area of concern within the county.

Many local businesses and farms are also places that store various potentially hazardous materials and chemicals. The LEPC also plans for emergencies in these types of settings.

"It is a matter of being aware and prepared so that we can respond quickly," he said. "It's all about saving lives."

The Clay County LEPC receives yearly funding from the Indiana Department of Homeland Security (IDHS), but has to schedule at least two meetings every six months, with a quorum of at least seven people in attendance, while also planning and implementing a tabletop version of an emergency preparedness exercise.

"The upcoming exercise is a mock-incident at I-70 and State Road 59 and involves a semi-tanker truck of ethanol," Husband said. "With the new ethanol plant in Cloverdale we felt this will be an excellent opportunity to plan for this possible event. In the event of an accident like this we would require response from many area responders along with IDHS, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT), the Indiana Department of Environmental Management (IDEM) and, most importantly, our own local emergency responders that cover that area."

For more information about the LEPC, contact Husband at the Clay County Justice Center at 446-2535, Ext. 156.

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Brian Husband has a daunting job when you take into consideration that anything and everything can and does cross over our highways, he is a professional in all aspects and has the experience to get the job done. Brian is also a Chief for one of our local Volunteer Fire Departments. We are lucky to have a man of this caliber going to bat for us.

While we receive support from the State and Homeland Security the bulk of personnel (and first on the scene) who respond to an emergency incident are our own community volunteer fire departments. These folks are just what their title says they are "Volunteers", no pay is given to these men and women and they don't receive the vast training that a Hazardous Materials Responce Team does but they take what they do seriously and put their lives on the line for all of us.

If a major hazordous incident happens on one of our hiways they will mediate the situation until a Hazmat Team can respond to the scene.

Let's be greatful that we have these folks in our communities and when you see them on the streets take a moment to thank them for what they do!

Volunteer Fire Departments are non-profit and it takes a lot to keep them running, any and all donations are always deeply appreciated, help them out if you can.

Enjoy your day and be safe!

-- Posted by BowlingGreenGuy on Mon, Jun 2, 2008, at 10:54 AM

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