Iron County Emergency Management seeks committee members

Stock photo | St. George News

IRON COUNTY — When disasters strike, heroes come in the form of first responders and volunteers who come to the aid of people who are often perfect strangers. From hazardous materials and floods to wildfires and epidemics, it takes dedication and preparation to successfully manage any emergency scenario.

That’s why the Iron County Emergency Management is looking for committed individuals to donate a few hours a month to one of the four new subcommittees created to assist the Local Emergency Planning Committee, which oversees, coordinates and organizes emergency preparedness efforts in Iron County in collaboration with the State Emergency Response Commission. The committee is also responsible for educating facilities and organizations with hazardous materials and chemicals above certain amounts on site.

The four new subcommittees were formed during a Feb. 17 Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting. The addition of the four subcommittees will help to develop the plans that will be tested in action later.

Iron County Emergency Management Coordinator John Higley told St. George News that the four new subcommittees would fall under the Local Emergency Planning Committee umbrella. The head of each subcommittee would report back to the main committee once a month during a public meeting.

In a press release from Southwest Utah Public Health Department, Director of Emergency Preparedness and Response Division Paulette Valentine said that accidental releases of hazardous chemicals above a certain level are reported to the Local Emergency Planning Committee monthly.

“The LEPC’s broader purpose is to enhance environmental protection and public health and safety by planning and providing public information regarding chemicals and other hazards,” Valentine said.

Planning for disasters

There have been a number of large- and small-scale incidents through the years that have required emergency management responses in the face of local disasters, Valentine said. Her department works closely with local emergency planning committees to create plans later used by emergency management and first responders throughout the Southern Utah region.

“Part of our responsibility is to, of course, maintain health and safety for individuals,” she said, “but as well, we are supposed to make sure that everyone has access to care … for any event, not only (hazardous materials) related.”

In addition to incidents like the wildfires that destroyed multiple structures in New Harmony in 2012, Valentine said the most recent example of a large-scale emergency response effort was the September flash floods in Hildale that claimed the lives of 12 people, nine of them children.  

“That was a huge incident for our region,” Valentine said. “You know there’s always something going on, and we’re lucky that we don’t live in a hurricane or a horrible tornado area.”

The preplanning coordinated by Washington County Emergency Services committees helped guide a successful execution of the streamlining of emergency services needed in response to the devastating flood.

Iron County residents interesting in participating in any of the four new subcommittees that help prepare for these type of events should contact Iron County Emergency Management Coordinator John Higley at 435-865-5332.

The four new subcommittees and their responsibilities

  • Right-to-Know Committee: Responsible for formulating the policies and procedures that concern the public’s right to know program in compliance with Utah’s Government Records Access and Management Act and the federal Freedom of Information Act. Members of this subcommittee will help guide the release of public information in a clear way that does not infringe on the trade secrets of community businesses.  
  • Public Education and Information Committee: Responsible for reviewing public awareness and notification programs that are run by Local Emergency Planning Committee — such as the citizen alert program and the new Iron County Community Preparedness application — and making sure that they are as efficient as they can be. Public relations and information dissemination are the two most important roles of this committee.
  • Hazardous Materials Facility Liaison Committee:  Committee members work with community businesses to better help them understand the hazardous materials they have on site and how to manage them.
  • Emergency Response and Resource Committee: Committee members work hand-in-hand with the hazardous materials committee to ensure that emergency operations plans and all they entail are both realistic and attainable options.  

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