Oktibbeha EMA receives Hazardous Emergency Preparedness Grant

Oktibbeha County EMA/911
Staff Writer

The Oktibbeha County Emergency Management Agency recently received a $17, 948 Hazardous Materials Emergency Preparedness Grant.

The U.S. Department of Transportation and The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration provided the funding to the Mississippi Emergency Management Agency where the Oktibbeha EMA applied for the grant.

All funds from the grant are going to be rewarded to the local Oktibbeha County Local Emergency Planning Committee.

Of the funds, $2,000 will be spent on multiyear exercises, $8,640 will go towards new gas detectors, calibrators and training and $11,795 will be for fire hydrant mapping.

Director of Oktibbeha County EMA Kristen Campanella said their LEPC will decide what objectives it would like to meet as a county and will start with table top discussions.

"Eventually we'll get up to a full scale exercise, where we are moving equipment and people, playing a real scenario," Campanella said.

The LEPC will decide what type of scenario it would like to do for its exercises. She said most counties focus on severe weather, tanker spills or active shooters. With this grant, the committee must include hazardous materials.

One scenario Campanella said the committee will look to doing is to have a scenario where a plane comes to land in Starkville, and it drops something near the school while also influencing other surrounding areas.

"So everybody can play a part in testing their own plans," Campanella said. "LEPCs are always looking for ways to provide information to our citizens about the chemicals that are located within our community and what steps are taken in the event of a chemical emergency incident."

According to the latest TIER II reporting, Oktibbeha County EMA has identified 21 locations that store hazardous materials equal to or greater than threshold amounts.

As for the fire hydrant mapping, Campanella said there will be an updated map identifying where and what capabilities each fire hydrant has in the county.

"What they'll do is locate every hydrant in the city, county and MSU," Campanella said. "The different things they will be able to take from the hydrant is the flow rate and how much pressure is on it."

Campanella said first responders can also pull the map up on their phones, showing the closest filling stations, latest test dates on hydrants and provide an actual address of its location.

The current amount of fire hydrants are around 1,200 for the city, about 175 on the MSU campus and around 150 in the county. More hydrants could be identified once the mapping is complete.

Campanella said the new gas detectors they look to acquire will be useful, especially in training situations because the hazmat suits are used for the real life scenario.

"They're expensive, every time they open those suits, they can't reuse them," Campanella said. "These will be able to tell you what's in that facility before they have to do all of that."

All five Starkville Fire Department stations will receive a detector, a AS078 and a calibrator. Each county fire department will receive a detector, totaling in seven. One of the detectors is specifically being used for the SFD hazmat truck.

This detector will be able to identify different gases including carbon monoxide and combustable gases.

Campanella said she spoke with SFD Fire Chief Charles Yarbrough, who is the primary response for hazmat incidents to inquire which detectors would be best to purchase.

"There's been a need for it anyways," Campanella said. "I didn't want to purchase something that we're not going to use."

The Oktibbeha County Board of Supervisors approved for Oktibbeha County EMA to receive the grant during their last meeting. The grant requires a 20 percent match from the county, and the city of Starkville would need to reimburse the county for their portion of the grant.

If the Starkville Board of Aldermen approves the grant funds, Campanella said she will begin purchasing the items.

For this grant in particular, Campanella said this will help both first responders and the residents of Oktibbeha County.

"We are continuously working toward improving the response capabilities to chemical emergencies that not only ensures the safety of the citizens, but also our first responders within Oktibbeha County," Campanella said