LEPC updated on first response, small pox vaccine

By Megan R. Harrell

   Members of the Elizabethton-Carter County Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) received an update on responder performance and a copy of a new response plan for the county on Tuesday.
   Jim Burrough, director of the local Emergency Management Agency (EMA) briefed the committee on local first responders' success in dealing with the propane truck wreck, West Elk Ave., Oct. 25, and the success of a recent disaster drill at the Elizabethton Municipal Airport.
   According to Burrough, the exercise at the airport was in response to federal mandates requiring local first responders to complete terrorist training. An extensive car bomb simulation was completed at night for the first time in Carter County.
   "It was quite a bit different from anything we had ever done before and was quite an undertaking," Burrough said.
   The training exercise and the propane truck wreck gave opportunity for first responders to learn more about areas where they are strong, as well as those that need some improvement. Local officials who worked during the simulation voiced optimism on how well the training exercise went.
   "These types of things can be very confusing and create chaos for everybody, but over all I thought it went well," Elizabethton Police Chief Roger Deal said.
   Areas were pinpointed where improvements could be made for future responses. Officials believe traffic issues need some tweaking, and the purchase of a local mobile command post would be beneficial for potential disasters in the future.
   "If all of the EMS agencies work together to get a command post it would be one of the greatest things the city and county could have," Burrough said. "A mobile command post would be a place where a round table with department heads could meet to discuss problems and what we are going to do about them."
   Burrough added that a command center would have helped during the clean up of the propane truck incident.
   He also handed members of the LEPC the revised Carter County Emergency Management Plan. It has been approved by the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA) and the U.S. Justice Department and outlines standard operating procedures for various city and county government officials and departments.
   The plan is updated every five years in order to comply with state law and the Tennessee Emergency Management Plan. It has taken Burrough's office eight weeks to complete the new plan.
   "The plan represents a detailed, coordinated effort among government agencies and emergency services personnel in preparing for and responding to major disasters in Elizabethton and Carter County," Burrough said.
   Emergency response in regard to small pox vaccinations was discussed at Tuesday's meeting as well. Shirley Hughes with the Tennessee Department of Health provided information on the methodology that would be adopted locally if a small pox case were reported.
   Hughes is working with state and local health professionals to develop a comprehensive plan that would effectively provide every person in the state with a vaccine within a 10-day period.
   "If there is one event of small pox in the country chances are we will go ahead and vaccinate the entire state," Hughes said. "We feel like we have the start of a good plan and we have to have it to Nashville by the end of the month and to the federal government by the first of February."
   Although the plan is not complete Hughes said if vaccinations become necessary, citizens from Johnson County will need to be transported to Carter County in order to receive the shots. The vaccination clinics will most likely be set up at Elizabethton and Hampton High Schools.