Officials discuss preparedness in light of Texas explosion

Officials discuss preparedness in light of Texas explosion
Texas explosion (Source: MGN Online)
Texas explosion (Source: MGN Online)

LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) - An explosion at a fertilizer plant in West, Texas left 14 people dead and more than 200 injured. Here in Southwest Louisiana, we do not have a fertilizer plant, but we do have around 40 other plants that carry hazardous materials.

Local officials said preparing for a disaster like the one in Texas takes teamwork and year-round preparation.

"We conduct training throughout the year to deal with these types of events," Louisiana State Police Sergeant James Anderson said. "Our emergency services unit trains for everything from bombs to if we were to have a plant explosion."

Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness of Calcasieu Parish Director Dick Gremillion said agencies must work together to  practice drills and keep everyone current with information.

"We plan with the public safety agencies, safety teams at plants, and communicate with people at the railroads and the port," Gremillion said.

Gremillion said the facilities in Southwest Louisiana are not the only area they are concerned with.

"We also have a lot of transportation incidents around here.  There is a lot of hazardous material moving up and down I-10.  We have a busy port here, and sometimes we receive shiploads of ammonium nitrate here."

Identifying what materials each plant holds is vital information in light of a fire or explosion. Gremillion said each facility is required to report that information to local fire departments, emergency planning committees and the state.

"This helps because we do have an idea of what chemicals are stored at each location before first responders go in," he said.

In addition to practicing drills and maintaining communication, OHSEP uses a phone system that notifies residents when a dangerous situation takes place.

"If you have an event like a hazardous material in your neighborhood we are actually able to take the people in that geographical area and call them and let them know what is going on," Gremillion said.

OHSEP also has a Twitter and Facebook account for people wanting information through social media.

To register for the warning calls, click HERE.

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