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Local Emergency Response Efforts Paying Off
by Tracy Torma
Community Survey Shows Emergency Response Efforts Paying Off
What does “shelter in place” mean to you? Are you aware of the CAER Line for getting information about a chemical release or the chemical industry? Is the chemical industry a positive community impact?
These are some of the questions asked of local residents in a recent survey by the City of Deer Park’s Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC).
The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Houston on behalf of the LEPC, a non-profit community organization composed of city and school district officials, police and fire emergency response personnel, industry and environmental representatives, news media and interested citizens of Deer Park.
Shell Deer Park has been an active member of the LEPC for years. LEPC members work together to develop plans to educate, communicate and protect the local community in the event of a chemical release.
The recent study is the fourth survey to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the LEPC’s community awareness/community relations program. The first survey was conducted in 1995, with subsequent studies in 1998 and 2002.
Key Findings from the Community Survey
The findings of the 2012 survey show steady progress toward increasing the likelihood that members of the community know the actions and policies of industry and government regarding safety and heath in Deer Park. This year’s answers also show the level of concern about incidents such as a chemical spill or leak seems to be substantially lower.
Other findings included:
- Nearly all Deer Park residents know the warning signal that signifies an incident has taken place and slightly more than half of them are aware of the CAER Line, a number the industry uses to reach out to the community for planned events or emergencies that might cause an impact to communities or neighboring facilities.
- Awareness of “shelter in place” (SIP) continues to improve and citizens are more aware of the need to SIP if an emergency occurs while they are shopping.
- Most Deer Park residents believe that chemical companies study the worst outcomes that could occur during a major release of hazardous chemicals and that this preparation will help increase the safety of citizens.
- Although community members are concerned that unfavorable health events will occur from odor and emissions from chemical plants, the vast majority believe that safeguards are in place to prevent chemical plans from harming the air and water quality in their community
- Most residents (98 percent) perceive the industry as a positive economic force in the community, as well as having a positive community impact (96 percent).
- The most trusted sources of information continue to be local police and fire officials and city officials, followed by technical experts, such as doctors, university chemists and plant managers. In 2012, a chemical plant and its spokespersons as sources for information reached the highest level of trust.
Shell Deer Park’s Active Engagement with LEPC
“According to the survey, citizens believe the industry has a positive impact on the community and their level of trust in the industry has grown,” says Angie Stack, HSE Engineer, H&S Support-Emergency Services. Stack serves as chair of the LEPC’s Emergency Response Transportation Subcommittee. “The City of Deer Park and the LEPC will take some of these learnings and incorporate them into the things we do as a committee,” she notes.
“One of the primary goals of the LEPC is to encourage, develop, and enhance involvement and collaboration between the industry and governmental agencies in the area. We conduct yearly emergency response drills to identify strengths and weaknesses and look for areas of improvement in planning, response and recovery actions,” Stack notes. Shell Deer Park participated in a LEPC tabletop exercise last fall and will be active in other emergency drills planned by the LEPC over the next two years, including a full-scale emergency response drill in 2014.
Shell Deer Park uses E-notify and the CAER Line for immediate notification to the city and the community about an incident. “E-notify is a software program designed to streamline the notification process to local authorities and the company’s industrial neighbors,” says Bryan Moody, Health & Safety Specialist. “We can share the type of incident, the level of emergency, recommended protection action and road closures and any additional resources if needed.”
“The recent survey indicates that the citizens of Deer Park have a sense of security that industry is involved in efforts to keep them informed and will make the proper notifications if an incident should occur,” Moody adds.
Shell Deer Park is a 1,500-acre complex located in Deer Park, Texas, approximately 20 miles east of downtown Houston along the Houston Ship Channel. Founded in 1929, Shell Deer Park is now home to 1,700 employees who operate a fully integrated refinery and petrochemical facility 24 hours a day.