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EMA’s Lauer helps agencies adjust to new challenges

April 13, 2012
The Marietta Times

Jeff Lauer became the Washington County Emergency Management Agency director in 2001, helping area agencies develop emergency plans for everything from severe weather to terrorism.

Since then, there have been few other new forms of disasters to specifically prepare for, something that's changing now, as first responders plan for the oil and gas boom in southeast Ohio.

"This is probably the first time we've had anything this major to address," Lauer said. "With the oil and gas, they'll be drilling deeper...there are a lot of unknowns."

Q: Have you heard much discussion about local firefighters getting training associated with incidents that might occur as fracking starts in the area?

A: I've heard discussion but I don't think a lot of them have gotten the training yet. There is oil and gas training in Ohio for free. We sent that flyer out to everyone. That's something that's been happening but it's a little more important now.

Q: Do you think the firefighters' existing training is enough or will they need different skills to handle the oil and gas boom?

A: From what I understand these wells are extremely deep and high pressure. Probably our fire departments won't do much if there is a situation. They'll have to help with the surrounding areas but they'll have to bring in the company in charge to shut off the pressure.

Q: Do you think additional training is necessary?

A: I still think it's important, just to be aware of things and be updated. But we're all still in the learning stages.

Q: What other potential dangers are there, other than fire?

A: The areas where there is already drilling have seen increased population, traffic issues-a lot more traffic. And there will be some sort of chemicals and hazardous materials coming and going. We'll have big trucks on small roads and just a lot more chance for problems. I think it will be all be manageable but we need more information.

Q: Do you think law enforcement will need training as well?

A: I've talked to other counties and they do have some increases in incidents because of the big increase in population. One county said they have 4,000 to 5,000 more people and that's going to tax law enforcement.

Q: Would you recommend additional training for our first responders?

A: I think it never hurts to learn more. But we have an all-hazard plan in place that will cover a lot of things. We have plans for evacuation and emergency response and a lot of it is the same, whether it's a tornado, chemical leak, flooding or anything else. We don't have a plan tailored to deep wells but a lot of the existing training will help.

Kate York conducted this interview.



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