The risk of a Hazardous Materials (HAZMAT) incident in Whatcom County
is great. Over ten billion pounds of hazardous materials are
shipped, stored, processed, or manufactured in or through
each year. On the average, the Division of Emergency Management
is involved in approximately 50 HAZMAT related incidents annually.
Significant responsibilities for hazardous materials, Emergency
Planning and Community Right-to-Know were placed under the
auspices of the D.E.M. in 1987, with the implementation of
the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) Title
III, also known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know
Act (EPCRA). The Act requires States to
establish Local Emergency
Planning Committees (LEPC's), made up of Government, industries,
businesses, environmental groups and citizens. In Washington
State, LEPC responsibilities are defined in WAC 118-40.
In Whatcom County, the Division of Emergency Management was designated
to oversee and facilitate the planning, compliance, education, and
chemical inventory responsibilities of the LEPC. This requires
detailed technical vulnerability analysis, regular HAZMAT response
exercises, and annual data collection and inventory of the
approximately 10 billion pounds of hazardous materials at more than 85
Whatcom County facilities.
Division of Emergency Management staff may also be called upon to
respond to a hazardous materials incident in a variety of roles. These
range from assuming local on-scene coordinator responsibilities, to
provision of technical advice. The D.E.M. may serve the incident
commander as a liaison to government and non-government agencies, the
media, or may provide logistics or planning services.
The D.E.M. staff are certified HAZMAT technicians and may provide direct
tactical response in a HAZMAT incident. In a large event,
the E.O.C. may be activated
to coordinate the response.
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