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nddes insights December 2020/January 2021

Burgum announces streamlined, unified spill reporting system

Gov. Doug Burgum announced the completion of a new streamlined system Jan. 5 that will provide a one-stop shop for energy industry producers, transporters and developers, as well as the public, to report hazardous material spills and releases.

The planning process for the project began in 2018 as a joint effort led by the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services and supported by the North Dakota Department of Environmental Quality, North Dakota Department of Agriculture and the North Dakota Industrial Commission’s Oil and Gas Division. In January 2020, the reporting platform developer HazConnect was awarded a state contract to begin work on the project’s functionality and design.

The reporting system can now be accessed at spill.nd.gov or by calling 1-833-99SPILL (1-833-997-7455). Spill reporting requirements remain the same.

“This simplified system gives producers and the public a one-stop option for reporting hazardous material spills instead of having to report spills to multiple state agencies, thereby enhancing the state’s spill response and transparency,” said Burgum, who announced the system during his annual State of the State address. “Through increased collaboration and unified reporting, our state agencies are now better prepared to protect North Dakota’s water, air and soil.”

In accordance with state and federal law, a spill/release must be reported within 24 hours of the incident to North Dakota agencies responsible for remediating and documenting spills. However, 9-1-1 should be called if there is an immediate spill/release emergency including:

Any spill/release that has an impact, or potential impact, to public health, including:

  • Injuries or deaths.
  • Evacuations, or if there is potential for evacuations later.
  • Waterways or wildlife impacted or threatened.

Prior to the reporting system’s implementation, state agency representatives initiated an outreach campaign to notify industry stakeholders about the new platform and to provide training to those who wished to participate. A series of training videos also will be posted to the spill.nd.gov website for users to reference.

“By using a whole-of-government approach, we have developed a reporting system that will help North Dakota more effectively respond and mitigate impacts from unanticipated spill events,” said Cody Schulz, North Dakota Homeland Security director. “We have also strengthened our response capabilities by partnering with energy industry groups, instructing them on the state’s reporting requirements and giving them the tools and training to report accurately.”

North Dakota implements broad rapid antigen screening strategies

Planners from NDDES along with the N.D. National Guard and N.D. Department of Health (NDDoH) have been reaching out to and collaborating with local public health units, local community leaders, K-12 schools, universities, businesses and other groups over the past few months to shape a robust rapid antigen screening strategy for communities across the state.

North Dakota currently has access to about 2.5 million Abbott BinaxNOW point-of-care antigen tests with more to be shipped later this year. The tests were provided free-of-charge by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

By screening with rapid antigen tests, individuals can receive their test results within 15 minutes via text notification. The test also is less invasive than a PCR (Polymerase chain reaction) test in that it uses a nasal swab to collect a sample from the lower part of the nostril.

“By using rapid antigen tests for COVID-19 screening of asymptomatic individuals, we can get nearly immediate test results which gives us the ability to isolate COVID-19 positive individuals more quickly,” said Interim State Health Officer Dirk Wilke. “We want to thank those who made their facilities available for these screening events. Their support is helping us to further mitigate against COVID-19 and slow the spread.”

NDDES and the N.D. National Guard have program managers available to assist agencies and groups should they want to begin a screening program in their facilities. Some of the groups that can participate, include:

  • those who support critical infrastructure, such as organizations and agencies overseeing food and water distribution.
  • potential screening of businesses with more than 40 employees.
  • congregate settings, like long-term care facilities, group living homes, and jails or detention centers.
  • state agencies and political subdivisions (cities, counties).
  • in pharmacies for personnel who will administer vaccine to long-term care staff and residents.
  • community screening, which has just begun operations in locations throughout the state.
  • airports.

For more information about rapid antigen tests and North Dakota’s screening strategies, visit the N.D. Department of Health website.

Mitigation matters: NAsa's $42 million mission

Zeina Abouelazm, a student at North Dakota State University, authored this month's edition of "Mitigation Matters." Zeina is pursuing a double major in communication and emergency management and interned with NDDES over the summer.

Space weather is described by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Space Weather Prediction Center as the condition in space that affects Earth and its technological systems. Such a condition is a result of the behavior of the sun, the nature of Earth’s magnetic field and atmosphere and our location in the solar system.

Just like water, temperature and air are weather contributors on Earth; space weather has its own active elements or contributors: particles, electromagnetic energy and magnetic field. So how do we measure these elements? The NOAA Space Weather Prediction Center-developed Space Weather Scales to portray the possible effects on people and technologies to the public. They use a 1-5 scale to show the different levels of severity ratings, while listing the possible effects at each numeric level. Three scales describe the environmental disturbances for the following event types:

  • Geomagnetic storms;
  • Solar radiation storms; and
  • Radio blackouts.

According to the State of North Dakota Enhanced Mitigation Mission Area Operations Plan (Enhanced Mitigation MAOP), space weather storms have impacted critical facility infrastructure and technology in many ways, including blackouts, high-frequency radio disruptions and disruptions to satellite navigation.

NDDES currently is applying for funding through the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) to expand the Space Weather Annex of the Enhanced Mitigation MAOP. Through this planning expansion, NDDES intends to complete a study of North Dakota's current electrical grid and not only identify infrastructure that helps generate and transfer electricity, but identify infrastructure that is at risk of space weather impacts. By identifying equipment that could be negatively impacted by space weather, which could create massive power outages that would threaten human life and safety, North Dakota will be able to improve electrical grid infrastructure and mitigate these negative impacts in the future.

NASA, too, has been the main active agent when it comes to observing space weather and predicting different occurrences when possible.

The DSCOVR (Deep Space Climate Observatory) is an American space weather station that is responsible for monitoring changes in the solar wind, providing space weather alerts and forecasts for geomagnetic storms that could disrupt power grids, satellites, telecommunications, aviation and GPS. DSCOVR was launched in 2015 and orbits about a million miles from Earth as it hovers between the sun and our planet. The space craft is supplied with a camera that takes a new picture of Earth every two hours; along with, pictures of solar eclipses and the moon.

More recently, NASA selected a new mission to help scientists forecast the space weather system further. This experiment is a the first-of-its-kind. The mission is to obtain global observations of important drivers in space that have the potential of interfering with a central part of human operations, radio and GPS communications. The mission, referred to as an Atmospheric Waves Experiment (AWE) mission, will cost $42 million and is planned to launch in August 2022.

It is important for us to acknowledge the importance of mitigation to space weather events, especially with our current reliance on critical infrastructure and technology. According to the Enhanced Mitigation MAOP, successful mitigation of space weather requires an understanding of the current hazard risk, and information about how the risk is expected to change in the future. It is also important to consider both the direct and indirect impacts from other hazards and how those may influence future space weather risk.

Right photo, Shelby Schmidt is presented the State Radio Dispatcher of the Year Award by Brandy Dahlin, shift supervisor, and Dan Donlin, State Radio director.

schmidt voted dispatcher of the year by peers

Shelby Schmidt was named 911 Dispatcher of the Year for the State Radio Division Jan. 7 during the NDDES All-Hands Meeting. She received the honor from State Radio Director Dan Donlin after being nominated for the award by her peers.

Here are just a few of the complements given to Shelby by the co-workers who nominated her:

“Immensely helpful.”

“Goes out of her way to help others.”

“Witty … makes others laugh.”

“Knows her job and how to do it well.”

“Great person to be around.”

“Treats everyone with respect.”

Shelby has been a dispatcher with State Radio for more than three years.

Department of Health announces update to COVID-19 vaccine priority groups

The North Dakota Department of Health (NDDoH) provided an update Dec. 31 regarding COVID-19 vaccine priority groups.

“Vaccine distribution in North Dakota has gone well the first three weeks,” said Molly Howell, NDDoH Immunization Director. “Although vaccine supply continues to be very limited, North Dakotans should monitor messaging from their local health departments and health care providers for more information on when they are able to be vaccinated.”

The North Dakota COVID-19 Vaccination Ethics Committee, which includes a physician, ethicist, local public health representative, representative of the Department of Human Services and a representative of the Department of Health, has recommended who should receive the still-limited supply of the vaccine.

Though health care providers are still working through Phase 1A—comprised of frontline health care workers, first responders and long-term care residents and staff—the ethics committee has prioritized who will qualify for Phases 1B and 1C.