State Emergency Response Commission (SERC)
Background. In 1986, in response to a growing concern for safety around chemical facilities, Congress enacted the Emergency Planning and Community Right-To-Know Act (EPCRA), also known as Title III of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA). EPCRA establishes requirements for federal, state, tribal, and local governments, and industry regarding emergency response planning and the community’s right-to-know about hazardous chemicals as well as use, exposure, and transportation of hazardous materials. Additional information is available on the Department of Ecology EPCRA website, EPA EPCRA website and an EPA EPCRA fact sheet.
The Washington State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) was created in accordance with federal Public Law 99-499 and adopted under Washington Administrative Code 118-40. The Commission established its Bylaws, which set forth, in part, its governing rules.
Purpose. It is the mission of the SERC, Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) and Tribal Emergency Planning Committees (TEPC) to implement EPCRA in the Washington State to mitigate the effects of a release or spill of hazardous materials. The Department of Ecology, Washington State Patrol and Emergency Management Division of the Military Department have various responsibilities under WAC 118-40. Specific responsibilities of the commission include:
- Designation of local emergency planning districts
- Receive and record initial appointment of and revisions to LEPC/TEPC membership
- Receive and review local hazardous materials emergency response plans
- Administer and coordinate responsibilities of representative SERC members for implementing the EPCRA program in Washington State
- Establish procedures for the receipt of, management and access to all notifications, reports, plans and all other information required by EPCRA
- Coordination with EPA on EPCRA implementation
- Appointment of ad hoc committees and working groups
Membership. The SERC is comprised of a broad-based membership with representatives from private industry, state and local agencies. Currently, SERC membership comprises 26 individuals who represent the interests of state and local government, emergency services, industry and the environment.
SERC and Grant Application-related business should be directed to SERC@mil.wa.gov
Questions regarding public records requests: Public Records Officer, (253) 512-8110 Public.Records@mil.wa.gov
US DOT Emergency Order and Crude by Rail media inquiries should be directed to:
Karina Shagren, Washington Military Department, (253) 512-8222, firstname.lastname@example.org and
Sandy Howard, Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6990, email@example.com
SERC Meeting Information
The State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) has been established within our state under SARA Title III. The Commission established its Bylaws (PDF), which set forth, in part, its governing rules.
The purpose of the SERC is to develop and support programs of state and local governments and local university sponsored programs that are designed to improve emergency planning, preparedness, mitigation, response, and recovery capabilities, with special emphasis associated with hazardous chemicals. Specific responsibilities of the SERC include, but are not limited to, the following duties:
- Receive and record written reports submitted under the Emergency Planning & Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA). Receive and record verbal emergency toxic chemical release reports.
- Designate local planning districts and provide assistance to Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPC) in the development of an emergency response plan for their district.
- Establish EPCRA community education and training programs that address mitigation, emergency preparedness, disaster response, and long-term disaster recovery.
The goals of SERC, through the Washington State Hazardous Materials Program, are to:
- Help each LEPC to complete a hazardous materials emergency response plan.
- Plan for chemical emergencies.
- Provide hazardous chemical inventory reporting tools and data.
- Provide toxic chemical release reporting procedures.
The SERC conducts quarterly public meetings in varying locations throughout the state.
- March 2017
- May 16, 2017
- Sept. 18, 2017
- Minutes (PDF)
- Nov. 1, 2017
- Feb. 2, 2018
- June 6, 2018
- September 2018
- October 2018
- February 2019
HB 1449 created four EMD Hazardous Materials Program Managers to assist with hazardous material planning for LEPCs and TEPCs.
- Program Supervisor and Southwest Planner – Susan Forsythe, (253) 345- 9010, firstname.lastname@example.org
- Northwest Planner – Patrick Wicklund, (253) 651-6083, Patrick.Wicklund@mil.wa.gov
- Central Planner – Kent Catlin, (253) 651-6299, email@example.com
- East Planner – Pete Hartmann, (509) 435-6288, firstname.lastname@example.org
Purpose. The purpose of a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and Tribal Emergency Planning Committee (TEPC) is to coordinate hazardous materials issues and carry out the mandate of EPCRA within their emergency planning district. LEPCs and TEPCs are crucial to the success of EPCRA and its goals. LEPCs and TEPCs prepare and plan for chemical emergencies as well as ensure the people in their community are aware of the chemical risks around them.
Responsibilities. Each LEPC and TEPC appoints a chairperson, meets regularly, and establishes rules by which the LEPC and TEPC shall operate. LEPCs and TEPCs may hold meetings as often as they deem necessary. In order to keep the LEPCs and TEPCs functioning effectively, regularly scheduled meetings that address local issues and work toward progress on key hazardous materials concerns are important.
Each LEPC and TEPC must develop a hazardous materials plan and update it at least annually. In accordance with WAC Chapter 118-40-160, each year every LEPC and TEPC must submit a list of their membership and the organizations they represent to the SERC. LEPCs and TEPCs should have a system for maintaining the hazardous materials information reported to them by businesses that are filing EPCRA reports. LEPCs and TEPCs should establish procedures for receiving and processing requests from the public for information about hazardous materials in their jurisdiction.
In addition to its formal responsibilities, LEPCs and TEPCs serve as the focal point in their community for information on potential chemical risks. As such, LEPCs and TEPCs should educate the public of potential chemical risks in their community, what to do in the event of a chemical emergency, and how to shelter-in-place, or evacuate. The public should be encouraged to attend LEPC and TEPC meetings to discuss local chemical hazards, the emergency response plan, and emergency exercises and drills. LEPCs and TEPCs should engage with leaders of organizations in their community, such as schools, churches, nursing homes, and hospitals.
LEPCs and TEPCs are also encouraged to look beyond hazardous materials and use their forum to address all hazards that could threaten their communities. LEPCs and TEPCs can provide a convenient forum for awareness and planning for all types of hazards because their membership ideally represents a wide cross section of the community that would respond in a local emergency.
Membership. Each LEPC and TEPC should include representation from each of the following groups or organizations:
- State and local officials
- Local elected officials
- Law enforcement
- Emergency management
- Fire fighting
- First aid
- Health professionals
- Local environmental agencies
- Transportation personnel
- Broadcast and print media
- Community groups
- Owners and operators of facilities subject to the requirements of EPCRA
LEPCs and TEPCs frequently struggle to recruit and retain the under-involved groups of EPCRA i.e. hospitals, media, schools, community groups and industry. LEPCs and TEPCs may wish to consider meeting at times and places convenient for those members or provide Skype/call-in numbers.
LEPC/TEPC Hazardous Materials Emergency Response Plan
Under the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA), Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) must develop an emergency response plan, review the plan at least annually. Plans are developed by LEPCs with stakeholder participation. LEPCs can incorporate their LEPC plan into their wider Comprehensive Emergency Response Plan’s (CEMP) Emergency Support Function 10 Annex or have a stand-alone Hazardous Material Emergency Response Plan. Should the LEPC draft a stand-alone plan, care must be taken not to contradict any overarching community emergency plans and update the LEPC plan when changes are made to overarching documents. The SERC has provided templates to assist LEPCs in the development their plans.
The LEPC plan must include, at a minimum, the nine planning requirements outlined in EPCRA:
- Identification of facilities that possess extremely hazardous substances and the transportation routes along which these substances may move.
- Emergency response procedures
- Designation of a community emergency coordinator and facility emergency coordinators
- Procedures providing reliable, effective, and timely notification
- Methods for determining the occurrence of a release, and the area or population likely to be affected
- A description of emergency equipment and facilities in the community
- Evacuation plans
- Training programs
- Methods and schedules for exercising the plan
In accordance with the RCW 38.52.040 and WAC 118-40-180, LEPCs and TEPCs must review their plans annually to address changed conditions within their community, and submit their plans to the SERC for review when updated, but not less than at least once every five years. Within 90 days, the SERC will review the plan and send a letter to the LEPC or TEPC outlining any suggested amendments to the plan.
Hazardous Materials Training and Exercise
LEPCs and TEPCs may wish to appoint a Training and Exercise Working Group. This group should contain representatives of various emergency preparedness disciplines and organizations and frequently report the group’s progress to the entire LEPC/TEPC at regularly scheduled meetings. Tasks for this working group may include:
- Identify the community’s training needs
- Identify existing training resources that are available
- Coordinate with local emergency management, Homeland Security Region, State EMD, and Washington State Patrol for assistance in development of a three-year training and exercise plan to meet the collective needs of all disciplines and agencies
Washington State Patrol provides hazardous materials training including Hazardous Materials Awareness, Operations, Technician, Hazardous Materials Chemistry, Hazardous Materials Safety Officer, On-Scene Incident Command, and other training courses based on the needs of the responder group.
Emergency Management Division offers a wide range of emergency management courses in the state.
Washington industry spill response drill are posted on the Northwest Area Committee’s Exercise Calendar.
Many federal agencies provide free in-person, mobile or web-based hazardous materials training. Hazardous materials training opportunities include:
- PHMSA Transportation Rail Incident Preparedness and Response (TRIPR)
- National Fire Academy
- Center for Domestic Preparedness
- Emergency Management Institute
- Security and Emergency Response Training Center
- National Training and Education Division
- US Chemical Safety Board
- CDC Learning Connection
- EPA’s Web-based EPCRA training
- TEEX DHS/FEMA Funded Courses
- FEMA Region X Master Training and Exercise Calendar
- FEMA Hazardous Materials Tabletop Exercise Manual
Many industry groups and chemical trade associations have resources available to support emergency preparedness. Examples of industry hazardous materials training includes:
- TRANSCAER® web-based and mobile training
- Association of American Railroads
- The Chlorine Institute
- RFA Training Guide to Ethanol Emergency Response
- The Fertilizer Institute
- Pipeline Association for Public Awareness
- Washington State Department of Ecology EPCRA website
- Environmental Protection Agency EPCRA website
- Washington 2014 Marine and Rail Oil Transportation Study
- EPCRA Consolidated List of Lists
- Guidebook for Conducting Local Hazardous Materials Commodity Flow Studies (PDF)
- Setting up a LEPC/TEPC (PDF)
- Measuring Progress in Chemical Safety: A Guide for Local Emergency Planning Committees and Similar Groups
- How to Better Prepare Your Community for a Chemical Emergency: A Guide for State, Tribal and Local Agencies
- Energize Your Local Emergency Planning Committee
- Chemical Emergency Preparedness and Prevention Documents (PDF)
- Chemicals in Your Community (EPA, 12/1999)
- Presidential Executive Order 13650 - Improving Chemical Facility Safety and Security
- Chemical Facility Anti-Terrorism Standards (CFATS)
- Chemical Safety Board
- National Association of SARA Title III Program Officials (NASTTPO)
- TRANSCAER Website
On June 6, 2014, an Emergency Order issued by the U.S. Department of Transportation (U.S. DOT) went into effect requiring railroad carriers operating trains transporting 1 million gallons or more of Bakken crude oil in a single train to provide information to the State Emergency Response Commission (SERC) regarding the estimated volumes and frequencies of the train traffic implicated. Specifically, the notification must:
- Provide reasonable estimate of the number of trains and volumes per week, through each county.
- Identify and describe the petroleum crude oil expected to be transported in accordance with 49 CFR part 172, subpart C.
- Provide all applicable emergency response information required by 49 CFR part 172 subpart G.
- Identify the routes over which the materials will be transported.
- Provide at least one point of contact at the railroad (including name, title, phone number, and address) responsible for serving as the point of contact for SERCs and relevant emergency responders related to the railroad’s transportation of Bakken crude oil.
Railroad carriers shall update notifications prior to making any material changes in the estimated volumes or frequencies of trains traveling through a county (U.S. DOT considers any increase or decrease of 25% or more in the number of implicated trains per week to be a material change). For more information, click here.
The notification process currently being implemented:
- Railroad carrier notification reports received by the SERC are being sent to those emergency management organizations with a “need to know” (the counties/cities/tribes the oil trains travel through).
- All railroad notifications reports sent by the SERC to emergency management organizations contain the following direction: “Each receiving agency is independently responsible for compliance with all state and federal laws and regulations concerning the disclosure and protection of this information, including but not limited to compliance with the state Public Records Act, ch. 42.56 RCW, and 49 CFR 1520, as applicable.”
- Anyone other than an emergency responder with a need to know who would like to see a copy of the railroads’ notifications will be asked to file a Public Records Request (PRR).
- SERC expects that all agencies that receive this information will comply with applicable state and federal law as directed.
Railroad Notifications Released Pursuant to Public Record Request:
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated Aug. 16, 2018 & released Aug. 29, 2018
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated May 29, 2018 & released June 19, 2018
- Tacoma Rail Notification (PDF) dated April 20, 2017 & released April 25, 2017
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated June 17, 2016 & released June 23, 2016
- Union Pacific Railroad Notification (PDF) dated Nov. 10, 2015 & released Dec 9, 2015
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated Sept. 18, 2015 & released Sept. 22, 2015
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated June 24, 2015 & released June 26, 2015
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated May 1, 2015 & released May 12, 2015
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated Sept. 30, 2014 & released Oct. 23, 2014
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated June 13, 2014 & released July 7, 2014
- BNSF Railways (PDF) dated June 6, 2014 & released June 24, 2014
- Portland and Western Railroad (PDF) dated June 5, 2014 & released June 24, 2014
- Tacoma Rail Notification (PDF) dated June 5, 2014 & released June 23, 2014
- Union Pacific Railroad Notification (PDF) dated June 3, 2014 & released June 23, 2014
For more information, go to the WA Department of Ecology's Frequently Asked Questions web page.
Questions regarding public records requests: Public Records Officer, (253) 512-8110, Public.Records@mil.wa.gov
US DOT Emergency Order Media Inquiries should be directed to the following Media Team members:
Karina Shagren, Military Department, (253) 512-8222, email@example.com
Sandy Howard, Department of Ecology, (360) 407-6990, firstname.lastname@example.org