Tuesday, October 05, 2010
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LFD and EMA will work together to improve hazmat handling procedures

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[October 05, 2010]  At the Monday evening voting session of the Lincoln City Council, all 10 members were present. Mayor Keith Snyder and city attorney Bill Bates were absent for the evening. Blinn Bates sat in as attorney and Buzz Busby assumed his responsibility as mayor pro tem for the evening.

InsuranceThe evening began with a joint discussion with Kent Hulett, Lincoln city fire chief, and Dan Fulscher, director of the Logan County Emergency Management Agency.

Hulett began the discussion by explaining that he and Fulscher were there together to explain a proposed "Memorandum of Understanding" that they are asking the city to approve. This same memorandum will have to also be approved by the county board, and it is expected that they will vote on it at their Oct. 19 meeting.

Hulett said that EMA has won a $40,000 grant to help with their training and record maintenance and other key issues related to dealing with hazardous materials.

Hulett said he approached Fulscher to discuss a joint effort that would benefit the fire department.

In Logan County there are 54 hazardous materials storage sites. Of those, 32 are considered to be extreme hazards.

Hulett said that the city fire department was the only technical team trained to handle hazmat situations in all of Logan County. He noted a recent event on Interstate 55 when the city department invested approximately five hours in addressing a spill and protecting public safety.

Hulett said his department needs additional training to improve their handling of hazardous materials. In addition there is a great deal of documentation involved in these situations. Hulett said that the department is not as up to date as they should be.

"I'll tell you right now, we haven't kept up on what we should be doing. It is very labor-intensive. There are equipment needs that we can't meet by ourselves," Hulett said. "There is a lot more that we should be doing on a city level to improve our hazardous materials readiness, and that is basically where this Memorandum of Understanding comes from."

Hulett said the proposal before the council would call for a city contribution of $5,000. However, he said his department had the $5,000 in the form of a donation that had been made some time ago, so there would be no draw from the city's already stressed budget.

When Fulscher took the podium, he said he was delighted that Hulett came to him and that anytime two groups are willing to work together, everyone is going to benefit.

He also noted that even though EMA is a county program, it is funded in part by taxes paid by city residents. He punctuated his comment with the statement, "I work for you."

The grant that has been awarded is specifically for a "Hazardous Material Evaluation Plan" and provides money for a full-time staff person to work exclusively in the hazmat program.

Fulscher said that one of the main things this person will be doing is documenting sites and incorporating them into the county's geographic information system. He said this would allow for immediate access through GIS regarding the site.

Fulscher said this would be of great benefit, in that during a hazardous condition, the hazmat team would have immediate access to the information as well as information regarding weather conditions such as wind direction that would affect an evacuation and other conditions that can be revealed through the GIS system.

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He said his vision for the future would include access to laptops and thumb drives for the teams that would allow them to instantly plug into all the information they needed to safely and effectively deal with the situation they were facing.

Busby asked how much money the county was going to contribute to the plan. Fulscher responded that the grant that has been won is through the county and the $40,000 awarded will be the county contribution.

He said he had applied for $53,000 but didn't get all of it. The personnel costs paid from the grant will come to $30,000. The rest of the money will go toward equipment and a computer server purchase. He said there weren't enough funds available for the server that will be placed in the 911 center, and that is what the city's $5,000 contribution will go toward.

The memorandum before the council was a one-year agreement. During discussion it was asked what would be expected in the second year. Fulscher said he would continue to look for funding sources for the coming years and that he would certainly not turn down any money the city offered, but he is also not expecting them to contribute further to the plan.

Bates said he had reviewed the memorandum and penciled in some changes in the language.

It was discussed whether the city should hold off for a corrected copy of the memorandum, but in the end, Alderwoman Kathy Horn made the motion to accept the agreement, pending Bates' recommended changes. The motion was approved with a vote of 10-0.

Definitions of hazardous materials:

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration's definition includes any substance or chemical that is a "health hazard" or "physical hazard," including chemicals that are carcinogens, toxic agents, irritants, corrosives or sensitizers; agents that act on the hematopoietic (blood cellular components) system; agents that damage the lungs, skin, eyes or mucous membranes; chemicals that are combustible, explosive, flammable, oxidizers or pyrophorics (substances that can ignite spontaneously in air or water); and chemicals that in the course of normal handling, use or storage may produce or release dusts, gases, fumes, vapors, mists or smoke that may have any of the previously mentioned characteristics.

The Environmental Protection Agency adds to that definition any item or chemical that can cause harm to people, plants or animals when released by spilling, leaking, pumping, pouring, emitting, emptying, discharging, injecting, escaping, leaching, dumping or disposing into the environment.


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