LACKAWAXEN TWP. - Planning is underway to better prepare for future emergencies in Lackawaxen Township. Since there was a breach of a pipe during the Tennessee Gas Pipeline’s upgrade in October, that led to an evacuation along Westcolang Road in Lackawaxen Township, the board of supervisors and other emergency officials have been figuring options to better inform the public when emergencies arise.
Following a meeting with representatives of Kinder Morgan who owns the pipeline, as well as emergency management officials from the county, Supervisor Chairman Michael Mancino said at the December workshop that concern was expressed when pipeline workers left vehicles on the road, which “made it impossible” for the road to be used to evacuate. The road being block was “quite concerning from an evacuation standpoint.”
From what Mancino has come to learn, in such situations people who are closest to the incident are to be moved to safety and then, what residents should do would be determined, he said. During the incident in October, residents were evacuated within half a mile of the breach.
Because personnel from Kinder Morgan were dispatched to turn the gas lines off at locations in Lackawaxen Township, Mancino questioned if local emergency personnel could be certified to turn the lines off. Kinder Morgan, however, disagreed because it was “too sensitive of a project.” As well, Supervisor Jeffrey Shook said the area emergency responders didn’t agree.
There were also questions about the locations of Red Cross shelters within the township. There is one at the Summit at the Masthope Community and another at the Greely Fire Department. Maninco said the volunteers at the shelter at the Summit at Masthope did a “fantastic job,” as they made people “comfortable” during the October evacuation.
The “overwhelming concern,” Mancino said, was deciding how to communicate with the residents during such events. While members of the fire department did go door to door, if there were to be someone in the home disabled and unable to get to the door, the firemen may not know and so, they would leave.
Mancino said the county has initiated a Code Red application that he hopes the public will “take the responsibility to embrace this technology,” in case they are unable to have direct communication with officials during an emergency. An additional option is an automatic notification that sends text messages or emails to people during emergencies. Informing residents, that Mancino said is the supervisors’ “biggest” concern at the time, so a campaign to educate residents is in the works.
A township resident, Marge Wassmer who is originally from Long Island questioned how fire departments used sirens with codes, when emergencies occurred. That idea in Lackawaxen Township will not work Solicitor Tom Farley explained, because the sirens might ignite the gas.
Now, officials from the township’s emergency services are working on coordination with representatives from Kinder Morgan, if such an emergency were to ever happen again. Farley said the company had already been communicating with the township and emergency services before the October breach.
An evacuation route for the area is currently being planned. Once the plan is figured, the township will have signs for the evacuation routes.
Mancino said Code Red alert system for the time being is the “best resource” with the volunteers from the fire departments being the backup.
A man in the public stated that fire departments are limited on volunteers and so, he suggested a public announcement system going through the area to warn people. Mancino called all of the ideas “great.”
When emergencies occur, a woman in the public said people “go blank” and so, perhaps a training drill in the township would be beneficial. Farley said there was a drill in Lackawanna County for Kinder Morgan during the summer, where fire companies and emergency services were invited to participate.
While the public responded to the situation well, the “real concern,,” Farley said, was that a subcontractor hit the line and there was a delay in calling in the problem. Which, Kinder Morgan is working on. When gas is released now, the township will be notified.
Speed bumps and humps were, yet again, discussed at the workshop. With some bumps and humps being replaced and milled, Colleen Weis stated that they were “illegal.” Which Farley said wasn’t true because liquid fuels were used and a planning agreement was made through the township with the county, Woodloch Springs and property owners.
The next Lackawaxen Township workshop will be January 15 at 6 p.m. at the township building on Urban Road. The regular supervisors’ session follows, at 6:30.