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Area responders prepare for chemical emergencies

Last Updated on June 29, 2021 by Cass County Local Emergency Planning Committee

LOGANSPORT, IN – On a hot and sunny June day, a train hits a farm trailer pulling chemicals that had stopped on the train tracks. Fortunately, it was only an exercise. Responders from a variety of agencies came together today for the annual Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) Exercise to test the county emergency response plan and identify areas for continued improvement.

LEPC’s were established under the Emergency Planning and Community Right to Know Act. In Indiana, there is one for each county. LEPCs collect information from area agencies that store predetermined quantities of specific chemicals and generate a plan on how the community will respond to incidents involving those hazards if needed. LEPCs prepare plans for storage sites as well as mishaps that happen while chemicals are being transported to and from those sites.

Today, the group was evaluating the community preparedness for an Anhydrous Ammonia Incident. The exercise was designed and hosted by representatives of the LEPC who spent the last month preparing. “Everything follows the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Program (HSEEP) Process,” said Rocky Buffum, a member of the Cass County LEPC. The process includes an exercise designed to test specific objectives, as well as follow up in the form of an Improvement Plan that details training, planning, equipment and other needs to make things better when an incident occurs.

Buffum highlighted the great interagency cooperation as one of the highlights of each exercise. “County, city and state responders come together pretty seamlessly to focus on saving lives and protecting property. It’s not about the agency name on the shirt you are wearing, it’s about helping people which is why we are all here.”

In today’s discussion-based exercise responders from various agencies responded to the hazard, identified evacuation zones and conducted rescue operations. Buffum explained there is also focus on the post-emergency phase of the response such as remediation to make sites safe to reoccupy and temporary shelter for residences that are temporarily unlivable.

For the next step, the LEPC will develop an After Action Report/Improvement Plan and begin incorporating lessons learned into the county and individual agency plans. This will happen over the next few weeks.

Agencies participating in today’s exercise included:

Carroll County Emergency Management

Cass County Communication Network

Cass County Emergency Management

Cass County Health Department

Cass County Sheriff

Indiana Department of Health – Division of Emergency Preparedness

Indiana State Police

Logansport Fire Department

Logansport Police Department

New Waverly Fire Department

Phoenix Paramedic Solutions

Walton Community Fire Department