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Hazardous Materials

The Risk

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 the couHAZMAT workersnty each year. On the average, the Division of Emergency Management is involved in approximately 50 HAZMAT related incidents annually. 

D.E.M.'s Role

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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