Susan Buckley, RN, Director, Public Health
Ira Singh, MPH, Deputy Director
Donald I. Baird, MD, Health Officer

Division of Environmental Health


Date Released: 7/16/2004
Subject: Upcoming Hazardous Materials Area Plan Exercise
Contact: Melissa Martel, Senior Hazardous Materials Specialist
Phone: 707-445-6215

Last year the Humboldt County Department of Health and Human Services Environmental Health Division (HCEHD) updated the County Hazardous Materials Area Plan through a grant from the California Office of Emergency Services. Upon its completion, on April 6, 2004 the Board of Supervisors approved the updated Area Plan to be used by local agencies for standard operating procedure when responding to a hazardous material spill.

On Tuesday, July 27 at 9 am, HCEHD will be conducting a full-scale hazardous material exercise on the Samoa Peninsula to test each agency’s response in accordance with the Area Plan. For the past year, the multi-agency Exercise Design Team, organized by HCEHD, has been developing this exercise.

The exercise will involve the participation of: Eureka Fire Hazardous Materials Response Team, Samoa Volunteer Fire Department, Arcata Fire Department, California Highway Patrol, Eureka Police Department, Arcata Police Department, Humboldt County Sheriffs’ Office, CalTrans, California Department of Fish and Game, United States Coast Guard, City Ambulance, National Weather Service, County Office of Emergency Services, County Public Health and HCEHD. The Eureka Fire Hazardous Materials Response Team is the only 24-hour hazmat team for Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. It is funded through a Joint Powers Authority that includes Humboldt and Del Norte Counties and the incorporated cities within these counties, excluding Fortuna.

This exercise will help to: clarify agency roles and responsibilities; identify planning strengths and weaknesses; and test implementation of the Incident Command System (ICS). ICS is an organizational system designed to help different agencies work together during emergencies.

Humboldt County is at risk of a serious incident due to hazardous materials transported over our highways and handled at facilities near populated areas. Transportation routes include: Highways 101, 299, 255, and 36; waterways of the Pacific Ocean and Humboldt Bay; and commercial aviation routes. These routes present a spill threat due to the multitude of chemicals and hazardous substances transported.

HCEHD regulates 651 Humboldt County businesses that store hazardous materials. Each facility submits a Hazardous Materials Business Plan that includes a chemical inventory, a site diagram, an employee training plan, and emergency response procedures. HCEHD provides copies of the chemical information to local fire agencies for use during emergency response. In addition much of the information is available for public review by contacting HCEHD.

Facilities with extremely hazardous substances that exceed a reporting threshold must submit a Risk Management Plan (RMP) to the Environmental Health Division. These facilities analyze the risks presented by the storage of their material and generate a RMP. Verifying risks associated with these chemicals helps a facility to prioritize prevention and mitigation activities. The RMP implementation promotes communication with the surrounding communities and emergency responders to help them better understand and prepare for a hazardous substance emergency. Humboldt County regulates 21 facilities that have submitted RMPs.

Both the Hazardous Materials Business Plan and the RMP have led to reduced chemical quantities stored at facilities, elimination of unnecessarily stored hazardous waste, improved emergency response, better training of employees, and improved handling and storage procedures. Because of these prevention activities, there has been an overall reduction in the risk of a chemical accident in Humboldt County.

A hazardous material spill in Humboldt County could generate response assistance from over 60 local agencies. It is imperative that first responders know and practice the proper protocols for approaching a hazardous material spill and are able to initiate ICS. The goal of all these agencies is to protect and preserve human health and safety, the environment, and property.


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