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Safety officials plan for hazardous chemical emergencies
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If a chemical spill happens in Hall County, local governments and businesses will be ready.

The Local Emergency Planning Committee will meet Thursday to begin practical training for emergencies, said William Wright, Hall County Emergency Management coordinator.

“This training that we’re having is actually part of the federal requirement for the incident command system,” Wright said. “It’s a type of orderly structure of chain of command, and you can manage your people, manage your resources and make sure they stay safe.”

The committee is a group of local public safety and area industry officials who deal with a certain amount of hazardous chemicals.

Larger businesses like poultry processing and water treatment plants as well as smaller scale companies like pool supplies stores can be part of the group.

“If they have a certain amount of chemical stored at their facility, they are required to report that to the federal authorities, state authorities and local authorities under the federal Right To Know Act,” Wright said.

The group has met every two months for a year to develop plans in case of chemical leaks or other emergencies.

Starting Thursday, they will meet every month and begin training.

“All emergency responses, whether they’re private or public, are required to operate under an organizational structure of what we call instant command,” Wright said.

At the end of the training, the group is planning to put the skills they’ve learned into action.

“In April we’re planning on a synopsis where we would actually do a tabletop exercise,” Wright said.

The most important function of the committee is to get businesses and public safety officials to interact in a nonemergency setting.

“Should we have an incident at one of the plants, we will be familiar with one another,” Wright said. “It’s getting people to know each other and build that relationship so we don’t exchange business cards when we’re down in the ditches working.”

It’s also crucial for the entities to be on the same page when it comes to an emergency management plan.

“I can have all kinds of plans sitting on my shelf on a notebook, but unless I have collaborated with the other agencies and other parties in that plan then it’s not any good,” Wright said.

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