This past week I attended a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) meeting in Prince William Sound. The new state LEPC gave an introduction and report of his statewide activity since recently coming onto the job (after I gave a rundown on the activities and products we’ve been putting out on our earthquake and volcano focused emergency prep grant). Folk present were from non-profits, hospital personnel emergency services, educational sector, and even clergy.
It turns out that there are now 21 such committees in different parts of the state; yet there are over a dozen districts which don’t have an active committee. Often the onus of disasters falls on the local fire department in such cases. But where committees are active coordination is conducted for simulations, community wide drills, outreach efforts, etc… I worked during this past week with the local radio station to put out several public service announcements focusing on earthquakes and volcanoes. With the latter, lava flows are not the concern such as in Hawaii and Washington emergency plans but rather it is ash from sudden eruptions that causes problems. While there aren’t generally electrical outages from the eruption like there may be with an earthquake or flood, in remote Alaska volcanoes can take out power systems afterward as if precautions aren’t taken to keep the ash out of the air intakes on diesel generators the unsuspecting sharp edges of the fine, abrasive dust can render the engines useless.
After giving a presentation this past week on emergency preparation, per volcanoes one attendee told me that when Mount St. Helens blew in the 1980s he and other mechanics found that doubling pantyhose over the intakes kept the dangerous ash dust out. And for those who are in the area during an eruption, N-95 facemarks will help to prevent personal respiratory distress. Often it is the problems that come after an event such as mold from floods, ash from volcanic eruptions, and tsunamis from earthquakes which are a problem from a healthy homes perspective, and from a power generating perspective!