Emergency Planning Committee and its role

Every county in Ohio must maintain a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). LEPC is an organization made up of government, industry and community citizens, and is responsible for receiving, recording, and managing all information pertaining to extremely hazardous substances in our county. The membership of an LEPC must include, without limitation, personnel from each of the following groups: elected state and local officials, law enforcement, emergency management, firefighting, first aid, health, environmental specialists, hospital, transportation, broadcast/print media, community groups, and representatives of facilities subject to the Ohio Revised Code, Chapter 3750.

The LEPC writes the Washington County Chemical Emergency Response and Preparedness Plan, more commonly known in the industry as Annex O (Hazardous Material), and reviews and exercises that plan annually to ensure the county is prepared to respond to and handle a chemical release and protect its citizenry. The exercise plan is on a four-year cycle and the LEPC committee must be evaluated on its proficiency in meeting specific requirements of following objectives: Initial Notification of Response Agencies, Incident Assessment, Incident Command, Emergency Operation Center, Resource Management, Communications, Response Personnel Safety, Population Protective Actions, Emergency Public Information, Traffic and Access Control, Shelter Management, Emergency Medical Services and Hospital Services.

During the last four-year cycle, your local LEPC partnered with Solvay Chemicals, this allowed the LEPC to plan real life scenarios and test the objectives to ensure a positive outcome during an actual chemical emergency. The next four-year exercise cycle, from 2014 thru 2017, the local LEPC will be partnering with American Electric Power in Waterford. We are fortunate to have entities in our county who value the importance of the local LEPC and allow us to use their employees and facilities to test the required objectives.

Within the LEPC framework, the following are sub-committees that have supporting roles to the LEPC: Nominating, By-Laws, Budget, Training, Exercise, Public Relations, and Plan Review. The important work of the sub-committees make sure the LEPC runs smoothly and its membership is always prepared to assist first responders during a chemical emergency.

The Washington County LEPC meets the second Wednesday of each month at 1 p.m. at the Washington County Emergency Operations Center, 204 Davis Ave., Suite C, Marietta. All LEPC meetings are open to the public. For more information, please email ema@wcgov.org, or call (740) 373-5613.

Jeff Lauer is director of the Washington County Emergency Management Agency.