ROBERTSDALE, Alabama — The Baldwin County Local Emergency Planning Committee is currently working to have an updated Hazardous Material Response Plan ready to present by this summer.
The Baldwin County LEPC held its quarterly full-body meeting virtually on Monday, March 15, coordinated by Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency Deputy Director Jenni Guerry.
The committee is comprised of local first responders, representatives from hospitals and health agencies, volunteer organizations and members of the private sector.
Meetings include committee reports, including a shelter report, medical health, law enforcement, fire services, industry and Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters (VOAD).
An act of the State Legislature passed in 1986 requires that each county maintain an LEPC for the purposes of identifying companies that store and transport hazardous materials, provide oversight for the proper disposal of those materials and have an action plan in place should a disaster occur involving hazardous materials.
Revisions to the plan are required by FEMA every five years. The last revision to the plan was produced in 2015-16.
While there have been some delays with the new plan, Guerry said a draft plan is now available and should be presented at the next LEPC meeting in June.
A copy of the plan is available to view by the public at baldwincountyal.gov/departments/EMA/ema-hazard-mitigation.
“We are getting things under control as far as (COVID-19) vaccinations and testing and are hoping to be able to hold the next meeting in person,” Guerry said.
If the meeting is held in person, it will be held in the conference room at Thomas Medical Center in Daphne.
Also at Monday’s meeting, Zach Hood, director of the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, gave a presentation on the importance of severe weather awareness.
“Right now we are in the middle of Spring severe weather season,” Hood said. “That means that there is an elevated threat of tornadoes.”
Over the last 20 years, there have been 96 confirmed tornadoes reported in the state of Alabama, some of which have had devastating effects in the local area.
“Not all of these tornadoes were reported as a threat ahead of time,” Hood said. “Some developed so quickly that there wasn’t time, but I’m asking everyone to take advantage of the resources available to them when there are severe weather threats to our area.”
As of Monday, the entire state of Alabama was under an elevated threat for severe storms, Hood said.
Baldwin County has a variety of ways available to the public to make residents aware when severe weather threats available.
AlertBaldwin is a system that enables Baldwin County EMA to rapidly provide critical information in situations such as severe weather, hazardous materials releases, unexpected road hazards and closures, missing persons and evacuations of buildings or neighborhoods.
Anyone can sight up online at alertbaldwin.com or by texting “alertbaldwin” to 888777. You can also receive COVID-19 alerts by texting “baldwincovid” to the same number.
Apple or Android users can also sign up to get the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency app on their phones, Hood said.
“When I am out in the community at church or in other organizations I belong to, it amazes me how many people I talk to that aren’t weather aware,” Hood said. “It’s easy to do and I encourage anyone who uses these services to let people know about them and how easy it is for them to sign up.”
Hood also informed the group of the progress in getting the county’s emergency hazmat trailers up and running and that an updated Emergency Response Handbook is now available that provides information on how to deal with various hazardous materials.
Jenny Kilpatrick with the Baldwin County Health Department and other hospital officials also gave updates on the COVID-19 vaccination and testing response, along with presentations by various city and school officials, as well as representatives from non-profit organizations.