July 20, 2019

Poor attendance concerns emergency group

SKOWHEGAN — Membership and attendance continue to be concerns of the Somerset County Local Emergency Planning Committee. The committee is charged with regional planning and preparation for an emergency response to and management of disasters.

To date, one of the major obstacles to completing the charge has been the irregular attendance of some members. The group also has not been able to attract enough interested members to round out the required membership.

Leaders want to stress the importance of attending the regularly scheduled meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday, March 17, to discuss impending deadlines.

In the work since its creation, the committee has attempted to gather and review the emergency plans of agencies and businesses required to file with the committee and the state. Regional training has been scheduled for emergency responders to assist them in identifying potential disasters, but additional training and coordination of efforts is needed.

In previous sessions, Carl McKenney of Skowhegan, Emergency Management Director for Somerset County, said, “We’ve been lucky. All the serious chemical disasters have been someplace else. Bhopal, Virginia or Texas. Of course, there was nowhere near the loss of life in the states. But, it doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen here.”

McKenney and LEPC Chairman Kerry Martin of Pittsfield have repeatedly pointed to the commercial traffic corridors created by routes 201, 2, and Interstate 95, as well as railroad routes in Somerset County that are potential sites for disaster. In addition, the county has many large industries that utilize hazardous chemicals that are stored at and transported to and from their facilities.

The committee is still finding businesses and individuals who are unclear of their responsibility to file an emergency plan and are unaware of the existence of the committee, its role in the planning or the particular membership requirements to fulfill its charge.

Members, according to requirements set by federal and state law, are people from the public and private sector such as elected and appointed officials, law enforcement personnel, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, health professionals, public works employees, media representatives, citizens living near effected businesses or facilities, employees of the facilities, community service organizations and owners or operators of facilities.

The local committee has yet to fill all of the individual slots open in the different categories. A membership committee has been working on that process and will report at the Tuesday meeting.

Discussion also is scheduled on computer programming, budget status and time lines in meeting federal mandates.

The committee meets at the Skowhegan Community Center.

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