A working group of federal agencies issued a fact sheet on progress made to improve the safety and security of chemical facilities in the United States.
The fact sheet updates last year’s report by the working group formed as a result of President Obama’s Executive Order 13650 in August 2013. The Executive Order directed six government agencies to coordinate their efforts to prevent chemical plant disasters such as the April 17, 2013, West Fertilizer Co. explosion in Texas that killed 15 people and injured 160 others.
The Interagency Working Group, in collaboration with state, local, tribal, and territorial governments and private sector partners, is working to develop, re-energize, and enhance programs to assist the following: State Emergency Response Commissions (SERC), Tribal Emergency Response Commissions (TERC), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC), and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPC). This is critical to improving chemical facility safety and security across the country.
Some of the accomplishments include:
• Hosting a public webinar attended by more than 600 participants, including representatives from Congress, GAO, and the media
• Developing an on-line training module on the key requirements under Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act
• Identifying government approved training courses for first responders and emergency planners, found in the Training Repository
• Institutionalizing a Federal Working Group to improve communication and coordination between agencies
• Establishing Regional Working Groups in all ten Federal Regions
• Incorporating chemical facility safety and security data into the EPA’s facility registry service
• Reissuing the Chemical Advisory: Safe Storage, Handling, and management of Ammonium Nitrate to incorporate stakeholder comments and concerns and the latest practices in ammonium nitrate safety
• Launching actions to modernize OSHA’s Process Safety Management Standard and EPA’s Risk Management Program
Improving the information shared with first responders and members of the community is integral to improving chemical facility safety throughout the nation. Stakeholders should be able to identify the key risks in their communities and establish plans to mitigate or respond to those risks. The Working Group has taken several steps to improve information sharing and use with stakeholders:
• The EPA has enhanced and upgraded its Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations suite of applications that are available free on its website, and its Substance Registry System(SRS) updated to include PSM-covered substances. The CAMEO suite includes applications such as ALOHA for atmospheric dispersion modeling, a chemical database, mapping tools, and information management tools. SRS is the central system for information about substances tracked or regulated by EPA or other sources. It is the authoritative resource for basic information about chemicals, biological organisms, and other substances of interest to EPA and its state and tribal partners.
• The ATF List of Explosive Materials link to records in the SRS to increase chemical regulatory awareness.
• EPA makes recommendations to improve information sharing in the Factsheet “How to Better Prepare Your Community for a Chemical Emergency: A Guide for State, Tribal, and Local Agencies.”
• The group is addressing the possibility of sharing specific elements of Risk Management Program (RMP) data and RMP violation information with the general public. This will end up addressed in the proposed RMP rule and Regional SOPs may include sharing of inspection reports and enforcement actions among the Agencies.
• DHS continues to collaborate with State and Local officials and first responders to educate them on the CFATS program and discuss information sharing opportunities. The outreach is in the Department’s Outreach Implementation Plan established under the “Protecting and Securing Chemical Facilities from Terrorist Attacks Act of 2014.”
• DHS developed a permission-based system for CFATS to allow mission partners to access a large range of integrated IP tools, capabilities, and information and view facilities in their area, which will improve data sharing efforts. This permission-based system allows DHS to share information while appropriately balancing security risks.
• Improved information sharing and coordination is enhancing interagency referrals.
Click here for updated fact sheet information.