Aug. 24--The chief of chemical programs for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security said Wednesday that an initiative to regulate the security of the nation's chemical sites now is a top priority.
"We're concerned with the security aspect of chemicals already here in the U.S., not for what could come into this country," Steven King told a Chattanooga audience. Mr. King spoke to attendees at the eighth annual Tennessee "Focusing on Emergency Planning" conference this week at the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Convention and Trade Center. He briefed them on pending legislation on chemical-site security.
Bruce Garner, acting chairman of Hamilton County's Local Emergency Planning Committee, said chemicals are "something we've obviously got to have to produce the things we need in daily life. But they do present certain hazards, and we just have to prepare for when they might occur."
The committee is hosting the conference in an effort to stay a step ahead of chemicaldisaster situations that could arise from accidents or attacks, organizers said. Conference programming on Wednesday featured speakers from local, state and federal emergency planning organizations.
About 200 emergency response officials and chemical company representatives are in town for the event, Mr. Garner said. They will be able to use the opportunity to network with people from other counties to maximize emergency preparedness efforts, he said.
That is a huge benefit, said Lt. Terri Whiteside of the Chattanooga Fire Department.
"You like to know who's where, what specialties they have and what resources they have ahead of time, because then it's too late," Lt. Whiteside said. "This is the time to make plans."
Mr. Garner said conference participants will be able to put their knowledge to the test this afternoon during a "highimpact, multi-media" tabletop exercise for Hamilton County responders.
He said the group will have to act in real time according to an imaginary scenario involving a chemical disaster.
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