Texas Local Emergency Planning Committees: Assessing Compliance, Proactivity, and the Impact of All-Hazards Preparedness



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Local Emergency Planning Committees (LEPCs) were developed from federal environmental policy legislation in 1986 that aimed to bolster community preparedness for hazardous materials incidents. Collaboration and risk communication are fundamental to LEPCs, so there has been greater emphasis on incorporating homeland security elements into committees as part of a broader adoption of all-hazards planning. This thesis assesses compliance and proactivity for Greater Houston LEPCs to understand how LEPCs organize and operate under changing hazmat safety and security regulations and whether an all-hazards planning approach is more appropriate for the range of existing and emerging threats that communities must prepare for and more frequently expect LEPCs to help coordinate. This research explores the origins of local emergency planning and community resilience, LEPC compliance, and the impact of homeland security— including securitization theory—on community engagement and right-to-know. The methodology is a multiphase design using surveys and document analysis to collect data on Greater Houston LEPCs’ organization structure, membership, funding, and preparedness activities. Greater Houston, which includes nine counties—Austin, Brazoria, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Harris, Liberty, Montgomery, and Waller—and 21 LEPCs, is the selected sample and the study population is all LEPCs in Texas. Data collection was impacted by COVID-19, so document analysis was used in lieu of focus groups. The survey response rate is 9.9% and the completion rate is 89.3%; 196 documents were analyzed for proactivity and compliance related themes. Greater Houston LEPCs are a mix of well-organized and highly active, active but not highly compliant, and inactive. The LEPCs that are less active or inactive do not have any associated secondary data that suggests they are providing all-hazards planning in lieu of focus on federal requirements—they appear to simply not be doing any preparedness activities. It is unclear why some Greater Houston jurisdictions do not have functional LEPCs, but literature suggests that funding is a leading factor. Another leading factor for Greater Houston LEPCs may be a failure by local governments to ensure that LEPCs receive adequate support and promotion.



Local Emergency Planning Committees, Emergency management, Community preparedness, Chemical incidents, Homeland security, Regulatory compliance