Hazard Analysis – Looking Beyond Your Borders

In the radiological emergency preparedness niche field of emergency management we conduct a lot of preparedness activities for a hazard which may not even be within our jurisdiction.  The emergency planning zone (EPZ) for a nuclear power plant often times transcends multiple towns, cities, villages, counties, and even state lines.  While I have some issues with the effectiveness and implementation of radiological emergency planning, they at least address the reality of the hazard crossing the artificial borders we humans have established.  For other hazards, this premise usually does not hold true.

In January of this year a chemical leaked from a storage tank at a coal processing facility in Charleston, West Virginia.  This chemical leaked into the Elk River and both directly and indirectly impacted hundreds of thousands of citizens, businesses, and governments requiring evacuations and preventing water use for several weeks. The DHS Lessons Learned Information Sharing (LLIS) website has posted a brief by The Joint Commission on this incident with specific citations on the impacts to area hospitals, mostly through contracted laundry services.

In the private sector, we often encourages businesses to examine the vulnerabilities of suppliers and distributors as part of their hazard vulnerability analysis (HVA) and business impact assessment (BIA).  This is not something often considered by governments.  For example, in my town, there is only one very small gas station, so due their limited hours (fuel is not available 24/7) government services and the town’s contracted fire company must leave the town for fuel.  That is a significant dependency on a supplier outside the jurisdiction.  I’ve sure there are many other suppliers used by the town which lie outside their borders.  Additionally, what are the potential impacts of an incident that occurs in a neighboring jurisdiction?  Such an incident could either directly impact you, such as a chemical plume entering your jurisdiction; or would require your jurisdiction to address sheltering, traffic, or mutual aid needs.

I would suggest, as part of the hazard analysis phase of your planning process, that you obtain copies of the hazard analysis of neighboring jurisdictions.  The hazards they indicate may be quite eye-opening to you and may require you to better prepare for a hazard beyond your borders.

©2014 Timothy Riecker

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