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Local emergency preparedness group discusses contingency plans for disasters like the West fertilizer plant explosion

By Braid Blanks, bblanks@ktxs.com
Published On: Jul 12 2013 07:19:56 PM CDT
Updated On: Jul 15 2013 07:10:51 AM CDT
ABILENE, Texas -

It’s been almost three months since that deadly fertilizer plant explosion in West. Thursday night, Abilene’s Local Emergency Planning Committee discussed how they would prepare for a similar situation.

David Crymes Chairman of Abilene's LEPC says his motto is better safe than sorry. "The longer we go without a major incident the more people go it's never going to happen to us," said Crymes.

The LEPC is a group of first responders, governmental agencies and individuals from the private industry who are tasked with planning for the worst, a responsibility that seemed more realistic than ever after the April fertilizer plant explosion in West.

"What we discovered with west is that John Wayne’s not going to come riding over the hill with the cavalry to take care of you," said Crymes.

Crymes says this is something we need to think about especially with plants in our area that deal with potentially dangerous chemicals, like The Helena Chemical Company off I-20 between Tye and Merkel. They get chemicals like ammonia that are taken off railcars and driven to their plant.

"It’s totally different when you go from storage to you've got a plant out there chugging so many thousands of gallons of this stuff. The question is under what auspices do they have to report transportables on rail-cars and 18-wheelers.

Crymes said said Helena Chemical Company has been cooperative in helping the committee learn more about its operation.

"When we met with the Helena people, they were perfectly happy to cooperate; we went through their books, no problem."

He also noted that  says they're also concerned with the materials that Union Pacific carries through our community. He says Union Pacific has not been cooperative in their efforts to communicate with them.

"The City of Abilene has been trying to get information that's required so far the railroad has refused to I think we're going to have to have an enforcement issue," said Crymes.

KTXS talked to union pacific about their communication with the LEPC. A spokeswoman told us, "While we cannot release this information for safety and security reasons to various organizations or the general public, we do work directly with fire departments."

The LEPC has four regular meetings a year.