Local Emergency Preparedness Committee; Who are they and what do they do?

LSP program manager for the Emergency Services Unit Gene Dunegan spoke to LEPC interested parties recently. Stakeholders include Jay Hardy with La. State Police, Teresa Basco and Lamarr McGaskey with GOHSEP, Buddy Lott and Mark Massia with Lott Oil Company, Marty Guillory and Darrell Lucky with Pilgrim’s Pride, NPD Chief Harmon Winters, NFD Chief John Wynn, Bill Fair with Alliance Compressors, NP Fire Dist. 5 Chief John Nicholas, Natchitoches Regional Medical Center, Sheriff Stuart Wright, Parish President John Richmond and the Juanice Gray with the Natchitoches Times. Photo by Juanice Gray

Juanice Gray | Editor

There is an acronym for almost every entity these days from BETA to FEMA to YACA. Today, you should add another acronym to your vocabulary, LEPC and understand its importance. LEPC is the Local Emergency Planning Committee and the members are the ones that respond and keep the community safe in the event of a hazardous materials spill. OEP, that’s Office of Emergency Preparedness, Director Mary Jones organized the meeting of stakeholders including representatives of fire, law enforcement, businesses, hospitals, elected officials and others May 27.

Gene Dunegan spoke on the importance of having and maintaining an active LEPC in the event of a chemical spill.

With so many newly seated public officials, including Parish President, Mayor, Police Chief and Sheriff, Jones saw the need to have them briefed on the LEPC protocol. La. State Police program manager for the emergency services unit Gene Dunegan conducted the briefing at the NATCOM center. He said the LEPC is an “unfunded mandate” required by federal law. “That means you don’t get paid for serving on the LEPC,” he quipped. He stressed the need for knowing what LEPC does and why.

This article published in the June 3, 2021, print edition

There are 130+ businesses in the parish that handle HAZMAT materials. They must each report to the LEPC their chemicals list and inventory and have protocols in place in the event of a spill. Contrary to popular belief, “After 911, if necessary, LEPC should be called first, then the hazmat line,” Dunegan said. The LEPC is the entity that serves as a focal point in the community for information and discussions about hazardous substances, emergency planning and health and environmental risks.

They are also the ones to whom the public should direct questions about chemical hazards. One of its primary goals is gathering information and informing the public concerning hazards and risks in the parish where there are hazmat substances. The meeting last week effectively had committee members thinking about how to deal with a significant hazmat spill and preparing for such an event.

The committee members and business utilizing hazardous chemicals are better prepared to work together in the event of any spill, large or small, and preparing for the steps to take in a time of crisis. If your business handles hazardous chemicals, it is critical that your reports are current. To get started with your e-plan, visit www.erplan.net.