County revives emergency committee

Published 12:00 am Sunday, August 17, 2014

Warren County is seeking the public’s input and experience on how to respond to emergencies.

The county is looking for members for the Local Emergency Planning Committee, or LEPC, said John Elfer, the county’s emergency manager.

“What we hope to do is re-establish the LEPC program in Warren County and enhance our response capabilities,” Elfer said.

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The committee must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually, and provide information about chemicals in a community to its residents, according to the Environmental Protection Agency’s guidelines for LEPCs.

“Having a group like this is very important. You have the river, rails and the interstate, and there are so many hazardous materials transported,” said Roger Holdiness of Ergon who was the local committee’s first chairmen when it formed in the 1980s. “We could draw from the resources of industry.”

Actual response is left to trained emergency workers.

“Our job is to help facilitate it, not run it,” Elfer said of the LEPC involvement.

Inviting businesses and individuals to be involved in the planning process allows for more expertise in how to respond to hazardous situations, said Jaron Waller, Ergon’s emergency response coordinator, who is the current chairman of the local LEPC.

“It’s a great opportunity for the private sector and government to sit down and come up with a … plan to discuss different events that come up,” Waller said.

The LEPC was started in Warren County in the 1980s after the organization was established under a 1986 federal law. The committee never really disbanded, but their action slowly faded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

“It just looks like they never accomplished and followed through with the agenda,” Waller said “There really just wasn’t a driving force.”

There are only about 20 people on the committee now, down significantly from where the committee was in its heyday.

“We’ve had 100 people. The mayor was involved. We also had the county, the Coast Guard, the military park, the casinos, and industry all though Warren County,” Holdiness said.

The group meets once a quarter but as more members join, they plan to meet more often.

“Once we have some subcommittee groups established we will try to meet monthly,” Waller said.

Both Waller and Holdiness said they commended Elfer for spurring renewed interest in LEPC.

“I think he’s going to get it back on track, and it will be better than it every was,” Holdiness said. “All we have to do is get the people, and we’ll have a good outcome.”

Fore more information about LEPC or to join the committee, call Elfer’s office at 601- 636-1544 or email Waller at or Elfer at