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Front Page » February 19, 2004 » Local News » Questar pipeline meeting attracts crowd, concerned comments
Published 4,247 days ago

Questar pipeline meeting attracts crowd, concerned comments

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Sun Advocate reporter

First responders always show up at the scenes of emergencies in Carbon County within a few minutes of the onset of an incident. But in the event of a major disaster situation, emergency personnel may not be available or may not be able to reach the location. The CERT training program that the county has started organizing will help during major emergency situations, with citizen volunteers chipping in services as a stop gap measure.

Local citizens and leaders frequently wonder what would happen if a major disaster were to strike Carbon County.

Examples include a large earthquake, a major flood event or a hazardous material accident like a train with tanker cars filled with caustic substance derailing in the middle of town.

Another ever present concern is the fear of terrorism the country has had since the Sept. 11th attacks on the United States.

First responders, fire fighters, police and medical personnel would rush to the scene and scramble to handle things. But even with Carbon County's highly trained emergency personnel, the number of people hurt could be overwhelming.

And how would the public react to a major disaster or terrorist attack? How would the community respond and how should residents react?

The local emergency planning committee (LEPC) will contemplate the questions as members set up operations during the next few months.

The committee's job is to not determine what first responders will do, but how to prepare the general citizenry for disastrous events.

LEPCs are neither new to the U.S. nor Utah. Some counties have the committees in place. Others are in the formulative stages of setting LEPCs up, like Carbon County. Emery is in basically the same boat, as the county is formulating a plan.

"Basically, an LEPC is set up to get the community to work together and to be sure that plans that will work are in place," pointed out Kimberly Giles of the Utah Department of Public Safety. "What we have to do is set it up a lot like the fire drills we used to have at school, so everyone knows what to do in the event of any kind of emergency."

In this age of very busy lives it is a hard thing to get people to worry about something that may or may not happen.

But if a major catastrophe happens and a community as a whole is not prepared, the disaster can be much worse.

The movement toward LEPCs for communities started more than half a century ago when Civil Defense captains were appointed for precincts and cities during World War II.

The Cold War also brought new meaning to the term Civil Defense because of the possibility of atomic conflicts.

It was the first time in history that war on civilian populations could have been the entire emphasis of a conflict. But Civil Defense carried on, setting up bomb shelters and supplies, organizing "what to do in case of atomic attack" campaigns and putting together evacuation plans.

"I am still holding on tightly to my CD insignias," stated Dennis Dooley, the county's Civil Defense coordinator.

But it is a different time entirely, and Civil Defense has moved to an even broader base than it had before: the entire community.

LEPCs are designed to perform a number of functions for a county. They are a forum for planning, they provide information and training for citizens and they provide links between government and industry.

At the meeting all different kinds of organizations were present, which is imperative to beginning the process. Included in the group were first responders, dispatch, the health department, a number of federal agencies, town and county government officials, industry leaders and private citizens who have an interest in disaster planning.

First response is a large part of the answer for any problem, but how community members react in an emergency can create even more problems.

"The problem is that when there is a disaster, such as a fire, the public runs from it," said Dooley. "First responders do just the opposite, they head toward the site."

There are a number of problems that the community faces, and not all of them are stationary, within the boundaries of the area.

"Each day three million pounds of truck traffic go through the Peerless Port of Entry," Dooley told the group. "We don't know how much passes through here by rail. But it is a lot."

And a lot of those containers have hazardous materials in them. It's not hard to imagine a bad scenario happening. For instance, what would happen if a train derailed along Carbonville Road carrying some type of hazardous material that could become airborne?

It could not only cut the major traffic routes through the heart of the county in half, but could isolate people east of the tracks from first responder help.

That type of scenario is where the Civilian Emergency Response Teams (CERT) would come into play. As part of the LEPC, the CERT teams will be an integral part of saving lives and helping the injured during a disaster. Some citizens in Price City have already been heavily planning for CERT team formation and now the operation is going to go county wide.

CERT members are recruited from neighborhoods, where they will be ready to respond should a large event happen and first responders become overwhelmed by the magnitude of an event. The more people involved in CERT the better it is for the county as a whole.

But the only way CERT can become a reality is for the common citizen to become involved and learn some fire fighting, first aid, extraction and other emergency skills necessary to get through a disaster. While the LEPC will be making emergency plans by identifying potential disasters, and then working their plans, those volunteering for CERT will learn the skills they need to help the LEPC in its mission.

That training will begin as early as next week. On Feb. 26 at 7 p.m. a CERT orientation session will take place at the Carbon County Courthouse in the commission chambers. However, because the room is limited on space, those wishing to learn about becoming a CERT member must call 636-3260 to make a reservation to attend.

"We think there is going to be a big response to this," stated Dooley. "That is why we are taking reservations for the orientation. But if that meeting fills up we will have another that same night a little later in the evening, so everyone will have a chance to hear what we have to present."

Once passed through the orientation session, individuals can decide if they want to be part of CERT or not. If so, training opportunities will soon be available.

"We would like to see a lot of people out to learn about this," stated Dooley. "It could be very important to our county."

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