With the upcoming destruction of the chemical agents at the Blue Grass Army Depot beginning in June, the Madison County Fiscal Court approved a contract of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the depot, as well as approving a CSEPP Incident Specific Plan. Both are safety precautions in case of a chemical leak.
EMA Director Dustin Heiser said there was one change in the MOU he wanted to inform the fiscal court of, which noted what the exact levels of a chemical release had to be before the plant would be required to notify the emergency operations center (EOC) as well as Madison County EMA.
"The pilot plant will notify immediately upon confirmation of a chemical event when it meets the threshold defined in the permit application and give a five-minute notification to the community," Heiser said.
Magistrate Tom Botkin asked what kind of scale was used to determine whether a notice should be sent out to the public.
Heiser said if a chemical is detected, EMA gets many notifications through a signal method, with multiple backup methods, alerting the agency if the threshold levels have been determined, where the plume would go or that there would be a release.
"That determines our response," he said. "We practice these drills all the time, but I want to keep what we practice and what has happened in two separate categories. Like I said, there has never been a release of chemical weapons here … As soon as that plume crosses that fence, it notifies us, and we activate the alert devices."
"It's kind of scary that we're waiting until it crosses a fence before we are notifying the public," Botkin said.
Heiser said EMA takes this concern into consideration, but it doesn't want to warn the public if there is no immediate threat to them.
"They have implemented so many safeguards, really when you get into the details and see all that they have done to implement," Judge/Executive Reagan Taylor said. "I want there to be a sense of excitement a little bit too, of getting rid of these chemical munitions that have been in our backyard since 1942."
Heiser stated while a chemical situation is something for EMA to always be concerned about and prepared for, it is an extremely safe operation.
The Incident Specific Plan, which was discussed later in the meeting and approved by the court, states how the county and two cities respond to a potential chemical exposure event at chemical weapons plant.
"It lays out in immense detail all the different terms, knowledge and why we do this," Heiser said. "It lays out things like the MOU, what their responsibility to us is, what their responsibility to the community is and the time tables and many decision trees that say, 'If this happens, this is how it will go.'"
The plan defines shelter-in-place (SIP), evacuation, relocation and how the operations center would process that.
Magistrate John Tudor asked if evacuation was still the best option if a chemical situation were to occur, or if it was now recommended to use the shelter-in-place method. SIP is a process in which community members secure themselves indoors and take necessary precautions to ensure that no chemical agent could reach them.
"It has been shelter-in-place for quite a while, because of the time tables that we run into," Heiser explained. "SIP provides the best protection to the citizens for multiple reasons. By the time that plume could reach them, it would be safer for them to stay in their homes."
CSEPP and EMA provide SIP kits, which include duct tape and plastic in order to seal doorways or windows that would allow any agent to pass through. The kit also includes instructions on how to properly execute the process and is available on the Madison County CSEPP website.
Tudor asked if there are any statistics that show the percentage of community members that request the kits and information for SIP.
While Heiser did not have those numbers at the meeting, Tudor estimated that in his opinion, only 10 percent of people would have a kit and know the process of how to set up the SIP.
"That's something we continually work on with our media outreach and public information campaigns," Heiser said. "We are about to put out a shelter-in-place campaign, and we've got quite a bit of funding to send out shelter-in-place kits to residences to try to assure that they do have what they need.
"It is a lot of duct tape and plastic," Heiser laughed.
For more information about shelter-in-place or CSEPP, visit https://madisoncountyky.us/index.php/emergency-management-home.
• The court approved the Rural Secondary Road Program, which is a fund that sets aside gas tax money to help resurface secondary roads.
• During the judge/executive's report, Taylor advised community members to be cautious on I-75 at exit 95, as the construction at the Boonesborough interchange has begun.
• Taylor also read two proclamations, one of which declared the month of April as hunger awareness month in Madison County, as well as proclamation for SaraCare, an organization that provides simple comforts to families at the Kentucky Children's Hospital that are dealing with a child's disease or condition requiring significant stays.
• County Clerk Kenny Barger informed the court that walk-in absentee ballots for the upcoming primary elections in November are now open, stating that people who will not be able to vote at that time can come to the community room of the Madison County Courthouse to cast their ballot early. Walk-in absentee polls are open from now until May 20.
Reach Taylor Six at 624-6623 or follow her on Twitter at @TaylorSixRR.