LEPC Members Attend Emergency Management Conference in 2017

By Renee Witherspoon, Lubbock County LEPC Chair (2015-2017) and South Plains Chapter President (2012-2015)

On May 16-19, 2017 I had an opportunity to attend my very first Texas Emergency Management Conference hosted by the Texas Department of Public Safety Texas Division of Emergency Management in Austin Texas.

I was honored to be selected as one of the three volunteer Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) members to attend on a grant from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to the Lubbock County LEPC.  Other LEPC members in attendance were Gary Harrold, Radio Amateur Civil Emergency Service (RACES) Lubbock County Liaison Officer, and Jody James, Warning Coordination Meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Lubbock.

There was a broad range of training topics available on emergency management, I attended several excellent presentation which I provide highlights below to six of those top presentations.

Thank you Lubbock County LEPC for the opportunity to attend and be a part of this wonderful conference.

  1. City of Dallas Response to the July 7th Police Shootings

This presentation was well attended and provided an overview of the events, response actions and aftermath of July 7, 2016 event.  This event resulted in the loss of life for 5 Dallas police officers.

In memoriam: Sgt. Michael Smith, Dallas Police Dept.; Sr. Corporal Lorne Ahrens, Dallas Police Dept.; Officer Michael Krol, Dallas Police Dept.; Officer Patrick Zamarripa, Dallas Police Dept.; and Officer Brent Thompson, Dallas Area Rapid Transit Police.

  1. Active Shooter for Civilian Employees.

Speakers: Lt. William Kennard, Sgt. Richerd Standifer, Sgt. John Adams, Texas Dpt. Of Public Safety.

It was lively conversation and information on active shooter encounters and reviewed some basic techniques to survive an active shooter event.

Lt. Kennard explained what an “Active Shooter” really is, an armed person who uses or threatens deadly force on innocent victims.  It does not necessary mean only a person that uses a firearm!

They reviewed the top eight deadliest mass shooting in US history so that we would be familiar with what had occurred, emphasizing that many times there is no pattern or method. Situations are unpredictable and we in emergency management play a vital role in getting our organizations prepared and having a plan.

The main goal for the police officers is to confront, capture or neutralize the suspect as soon as possible.

They recommended the following actions in the event of an active shooter situation:

  • Hide – don’t respond to anyone if you cannot verify who it is.
  • Stay put if shots are being fired
  • If we can’t get away from an active shooter Lt. Kennard said that we need to be able to defend ourselves, and use anything we can – don’t play fair.
  • Don’t become a victim, quick actions can save lives. Always be aware of your surroundings, a great reminder for everyone.

They concluded their very animated presentation with some key points:

  • Be aware of your surroundings.
  • Assess every situation.
  • There is safety in numbers.
  • Always have a plan.

A link to their presentation is here: https://www.preparingtexas.org/Resources/documents/2017%20Conference/Active%20Shooter%20DPS.pdf  More Active Shooter preparedness? Check out their website: https://www.dhs.gov/active-shooter-preparedness

  1. Why are the Emergency Response Guide (ERG) and Dispersion Model Hazard Predictions Wrong?

An intriguing question that I needed an answer on. The presenters looked at a case studies on chlorine tank car release.  And under certain atmospheric conditions, the hazard area didn’t match the hazard predicted area.  Interestingly the current models being used are the expected behavior of other gases in much smaller scale.

They spoke about the Jack Rabbit Projects, a series of large-scale outdoor chlorine release experiments with a collaborative team of partners from government, industry, and academia. And found that “dispersion models use source terms which are not validated for rapid, large scale releases of TIH chemicals.”  Vapor and aerosols are dense and initially influenced by gravity.  More research is needed.

Journal of Hazardous Materials article about the project: http://ares.lids.mit.edu/fm/documents/rabbit_chlor.pdf

  1. Tier II Chemical Reporting Requirements

Provided an overview on the Texas Community Right to know acts and the basic requirements of the Tier II report in Texas.

Training in Lubbock will occur on November 15, 2017 at the Fire Training Academy, 1515 E. Ursuline. See TCEQ Tier 2 training opportunities.  There is no fee to attend the training.

  1. LEPCs and Warehouses.

Speakers: Assistant Chief Robert Royall, Jr., Harris County Hazmat Response Team; Joseph Leonard, Jr., Senior Consultant with the Center for Toxicology & Environmental Health, and Maria Galvez, EM Coordinator for the City of Katy.  All speakers were members of the Greater Harris County LEPC.

A great presentation on getting back to the fundamentals of emergency management:

  • Know your fellow responders and crisis managers. Maintaining those relationships.
  • Practice your response plans.
  • Remember to update plans to reflect any lessons learned.

For exercises they recommended using experienced evaluators who can address all aspects of the intended operations, as well as address any lessons learned and follow-through.

The focus of the presentation was, as the title suggested, on warehouse fires and according to the NFPA an average of 23,000 fires are reported in warehouse facilities every year. Chief Royall described a warehouse fire that his department responded to back in 1995.

A key take-away for this presentation was the importance of reviewing warehouses as part of your emergency response planning for your jurisdiction.  Warehouses store a wide variety of goods, many of which are hazardous materials so they should be part of the planning process.

A link to their presentation is here: https://www.preparingtexas.org/Resources/documents/2017%20Conference/LEPC%20and%20Warehouses.pdf

  1. Critical Decision Making Factors during a response to a Chemical Incident.

Panel moderator: Alison Belcher, alison.belcher@houstontx.gov

This was a panel discussion with the City of Houston and their participation in the Chemical Defense Demonstration, and series of three exercises the City participated in that really challenged their capabilities.

I was especially interested in this topic because Houston has a unique challenge of one of the largest populations in the US (over 2 million in Houston with over 5 million in the surrounding area), and its close proximity to large industrial complexes.

  • Question: Could the City meet the response needs if they had a train derailment downtown, a chemical spill at the Houston Ship Channel or a terrorist attack on a stadium?
  • Response: They could respond, but their resources would be significantly stretched to its limit!

Summary of the scenarios:

  • Railcar accident at a switch in downtown Houston. The car contained 80 tons of liquid chlorine.
  • At the Port of Houston with a release of Oleum (contains sulfur trioxide and sulfuric acid) that affects nearby schools and residential areas.
  • A chemical release from an aircraft that sprayed Methyl Parathion over a stadium during a daytime event.

How they tackled these scenarios is a textbook on emergency management and response.  Here’s their framework:

  • Create a Baseline Assessment which included meeting with stakeholders focusing on critical tasks, critical decisions and best practices.
  • Develop a Risk Assessment Response process and flow diagram that addressed three critical functions:
    • Recognizing the problem;
    • Containing the effects and
    • Mitigating the consequences.

One of the unique challenges Houston faced that surprised many in attendance was their lack of zoning laws, which all other Texas cities have and utilize to benefit of the entire community.

So with each of these challenges their team looked at and discussed these critical areas:

  • How does the size of the population grow with time?
  • What are the agency actions and interactions?
  • What is the decision process?
  • What is the casualty flow?
  • What processes can be applied to reduce gaps?

Following the completion of their tabletop exercise with the three scenarios, they were able to identify vulnerabilities and possible consequences to help minimize risk.

Importantly were also able to review critical functions of each agency with their roles, and identify gaps.  The goal being to improve overall response capabilities and develop best practices when it comes to response to large-scale incidents.  They did this by thinking through some of these time critical, difficult decisions in advance.

Here are the gaps the team identified:

  • Improve Protective Actions Procedures the initial isolation of large areas.
  • Increase training for law enforcement personnel so that they are more aware of personal safety in the event of a chemical release, i.e., speed, toxicity and volume of chemicals.
  • Update community preparedness materials to include actions to take during a chemical incident.

A link to this presentation is here: https://www.preparingtexas.org/Resources/documents/2017%20Conference/Houston%20Chemical%20Defense%20Demonstration%20Project.pdf