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Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC)

In 1986 the Congress of the United States; as a result of two large catastrophic chemical incidents, enacted legislation to deal with the potential harm to communities from hazardous materials.

The law; known as the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act, or EPCRA required local and state governments to work in a collaborative fashion with manufacturers and consumers of hazardous materials to prevent chemical related emergencies and to plan for the emergencies that could not be prevented.

On the local level emergency planning committees or “LEPC’s” were required to be formed. Federal law mandates participation and direction of an LEPC. An LEPC must consist of representatives of the following groups:

  • Elected and Local Officials
  • Public Safety
  • Emergency Management
  • Public Health
  • Media
  • Community Groups
  • Representatives of facilities subject to planning requirements of EPCRA

Among the responsibilities of the Coordinator of the LEPC are the following:

  • Review the Emergency Action Plans of subjected facilities;
  • Periodic site visits to subjected facilities;
  • Chair the quarterly meetings of the LEPC;
  • Coordinate with fire prevention bureau on permitting issues;
  • Review the findings of LEPC sub-committees;
  • Coordinate the city response to hazardous material/terrorism incidents;
  • Train city agencies to a level of preparedness for hazardous materials;
  • Annually review and test the emergency response plan of the City;
  • Investigate all hazardous material releases within the City;
  • Work with the Hazardous Operations Group of the Cambridge Fire Department on training, response and oversight;
  • Work closely with other agencies such as Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, the EPA and OSHA regarding compliance issues.

Facilities subject to the requirements of the EPCRA must annually submit documentation of their inventory of hazardous materials in the previous calendar year. These reports must be submitted prior to April 1. Among the information in the documents is facility name, contact person, name(s) of material, amount of material, storage methods etc.

It is important to remember that many of these items are used on a daily basis throughout the country in large quantities without incident. However it is the responsibility of the city; in particular the LEPC Coordinator, to have the emergency responders and the community as a whole prepared for any incident that may occur.

In addition to the facilities in Cambridge that are subject to the requirements of EPCRA, the city is home to a large biotechnology, research and pharmaceutical industry. Two of the worlds most preeminent research universities; Harvard and MIT also call Cambridge home. The LEPC Coordinator works closely with these institutions to ensure proper hazardous material safety and procedures are followed. Many of these companies have dedicated employees who have served the LEPC and by extension the citizens of Cambridge for many years. One of the missions of the LEPC is to have a productive working partnership with these professionals. The goal is the same today as it was in 1986: Prevent incidents from occurring and plan properly to effectively manage the ones that are not preventable.

The state of the world in which we now find ourselves requires preparedness not only for the un-intentional “accident” that may occur, but we must now prepare and train for the incident in which terrorists intentionally cause us harm.