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Study aims to get a handle on hazardous materials
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On any given day, there could be hazardous materials crossing the area by land or by air. However, just how many and how often remains unknown to even emergency personnel.
Enter the South Central Homeland Security Region Hazardous Materials Commodity Flow Study, which was a topic at  the Barton County Local Emergency Planning Committee quarterly meeting last week. Barton County Emergency Manager Amy Miller said the project will provide data on such cargo transported through the 19-county region which includes Barton County, as well as spills and storage.
“One of the reasons for doing the traffic study with the flow study is to find out, on a typical day, the number and types of placarded materials that travel by motor vehicle through Barton County,” Miller said.
“Hazardous materials may be transported by highway, rail, pipeline and aircraft,” she said. Certain kinds, which are regulated by the type of material and the amount of the material, are required to be placarded so that local emergency officials know that the motor vehicle carries a hazardous material.
“In the event of an accident where the shipping papers cannot be checked, placards may be the only initial source of information,” she said.  Placards contain colors, symbols and numbers which are related to specific classes of hazards.  
Shipping papers are carried in the cab of a motor vehicle, by a crew member if on the railroad, by the pilot if on an aircraft pilot, or in a holder on the bridge of a vessel.
Pipeline companies normally have a training session every year and invite emergency responders to learn about the location of their pipelines and what products are contained in the pipelines and how to safely respond to an incident involving the pipeline, Miller explained. In addition, pipeline markers indicate the presence of pipelines and an emergency contact number in the event of an accident.
But, there is no central source of information.
At last Monday’s meeting, the Barton County LEPC, sponsored by Barton County Emergency Management, heard a presentation by Mike Loreg, EMFusion LLC. He provided an overview and update on the study and reviewed why it was important to participate in it.
Miller said Loreg explained it is crucial for responders to know what types of hazardous materials may be transported throughout the county and within the cities in the event of an accident or disaster. In addition, the information captured can be utilized by many agencies to apply for other grants.
The Cowley County Local Emergency Planning Committee was awarded a Hazardous Materials Emergency Program grant to conduct the study within the region. The Barton County LEPC and the Barton County Commission had been asked to support the project.
In February, the Commission approved participating in the effort. The county was asked to pitch in $1,900, but Miller said that could be handled through a “soft match.” In other words, the county can count staff hours spent on the project as its share.
In addition to her office, Miller said the information gathered will help first responders, hospitals and public works departments, as well as raise awareness among the public.