County commissioner says Wacker plant & neighbors have a lack of - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

County commissioner says Wacker plant & neighbors have a lack of communication

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CHARLESTON (WRCB) -

Channel 3 is learning more about the efforts to improve communications between the Wacker Chemie plant and the surrounding community. Neighbors are on edge after last week's explosion and demanding a clear emergency response plan.

There is no set emergency response plan for neighbors living in the area near the chemical plant; but, Channel 3 learned Wednesday, emergency management leaders are working to change that.

County Commissioner Thomas Crye said Wacker has been a source of jobs and school funding. But in recent days it has also been the source of alarm. He's hoping last week's explosion is a conversation starter. “We have a communications issue. We need to have one voice from Wacker and one voice from the county."

He wants county leadership to address what he calls a lack of communication between Wacker and his constituents during recent events that closed schools, and prompted a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents. He said residents don't have direction on how to respond to a potential crisis.

READ MORE | UPDATE: Neighbors concerned following Wacker explosion, chemical leak

“I am not aware of an evacuation route like we have for TVA or a nuclear power plant,” said Crye.

Troy Spence, the Director of Bradley County's Emergency Management Agency, said it's more complicated than it may seem. If an explosion occurs, there is checklist of items first responders need to evaluate before evacuating neighbors.

Emergency responders are revisiting their plan on how to decide between sheltering in place or evacuating.

“The first thing we will do is probably have people shelter in place to see what we are dealing with. Because, number one, you don't want to unnecessarily send people into harm’s way. We want to be real careful how we do that,” said Spence.

Spence plans to meet with neighbors living within a two-mile radius of the plant. He wants to make sure they are signed up for the county's alert system that puts out a text message, email, or phone call to keep neighbors informed during a possible crisis.

READ MORE | Sirens going off at Wacker Chemie; third incident in two weeks

“If we can bring that anxiety level down on the front end that people will not be panicked we can reassure them number one whether or not they will be safe at home or whether they need to leave the area and if they will be safe to do that,” said Spence.

Since Thursday’s explosion, 1,200 people have signed up for the county's push alert system. Troy Spence wants to emphasize there are multiple ways to receive those updates. Click here to sign up for the county's alert system.

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