Over the next couple of months, Delaware County Emergency Management will observe main roadways in the county to gather information about hazardous materials.
Sean Miller, director of the Delaware County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said Tuesday the purposes of the commodity flow study is to get a sense of what chemicals move through the county to better prepare first responders in case of a spill or an emergency.
Miller said throughout the summer, EMA employees will find safe spots along Interstate 71, U.S. routes 23 and 42, and state Route 315 to record the number of commercial vehicles using the roadways and note if any of them are carrying hazmat placards and if so, what types of placards are being used.
“It’s a study of commercial vehicles at certain points throughout the county, just a snapshot in time. It’s not all-encompassing,” Miller said. “What this is going to do for us is start to give us a little bit of an idea as far as what is being carried through, into, or out of the county on our roadways.”
The EMA reported Tuesday the county had 23 spill incidents last year, and there have had 13 so far this year. Miller said most of the incidents were minor and involved a petroleum product. Miller said after the new data is collected, it will be used to inform training and preparations for first responders and hazmat teams in the county.
“This will start to paint a picture for fire departments and the hazmat team on what those realistic hazards are should an incident occur,” Miller said. “Different chemicals pose different threats. This will help us to update our plans if necessary. It will help to drive realistic exercises in the future based on those real-world observations, and we’ll be able to generate what those top 10-20 most common chemicals are via roadways.”
Miller said the EMA is also working with rail companies to get similar information, adding the data can also be used to look at what areas could be impacted by a spill or emergency. Miller said the EMA builds exercises around “plausible scenarios” and said the data will only make the training more accurate.
“(The data will) paint a picture of … what would the potential impacts be so we can start to plan for those as well,” Miller said. “We really try to have realistic trainings and exercises. The study is really just another aspect of the planning-training-exercise cycle in emergency management. Trying to plan appropriately, create trainings for first responders that are realistic and plausible, and then exercise after we’ve planned and trained. It’s a continuous cycle. (We’re) reevaluating where we’re at with our hazards in the county and pivoting as necessary based on those findings.”
Miller said the EMA began the study on Monday and spent two hours observing I-71 from the rest areas along the interstate. He added the EMA will observe each roadway at different times of the day throughout the study to get more comprehensive information.
Glenn Battishill can be reached at 740-413-0903 or on Twitter @BattishillDG.