Have you been watching the responses to Hurricane Harvey and Irma with anxiety? Do you know what to do in your role as town administrator, elected official, or board of health member if a hurricane hit New England again? Join us for three seminars and a tabletop exercise to learn risk communications skills, how to master FEMA paperwork, and how to effectively manage unexpected and untrained disaster volunteers. Check out the Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition‘s webpage for more information.
Regional Preparedness Program Manager Tracy Rogers assisted Conway in recovering from the tornado that struck the town on February 25th. Tracy first served in a volunteer capacity in her role as interim deputy team leader on the Northwest Massachusetts Incident Management Team. Later, in her FRCOG role, Tracy worked with town officials to write an after action report and improvement plan assessing how well the town responded and suggesting planning and training opportunities to improve future responses.
Though the majority of states scored a 6 out of 10 or lower in the Trust for America’s Health’s report on Health Emergency Preparedness, Massachusetts scored 10 out of 10! Massachusetts has been recognized by the Trust as the most prepared state in the nation when it comes to preventing, responding to, and recovering from public health emergencies such as disease outbreaks, bioterrorism, and natural and manmade disasters.
According to Mary Clark, Director of Preparedness & Emergency Management at the Massachusetts Department of Public Health, “Massachusetts’ score reflects work across the Department on health security preparedness, flu vaccination, climate change readiness, food safety, healthcare associated infections, and state public health laboratory biosafety measures. The score also reflects our collaboration with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency which has put in place a system to support emergency access for healthcare staff and supplies during emergencies.”
To see what part the COG’s Emergency Preparedness Program plays in keeping western Mass. safe and healthy, check out our Program page, the Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition’s page, the Franklin County Citizen Corps page, and the Western MA Health & Medical Coordinating Coalition page.
The Franklin and Hampshire County Regional Emergency Planning Committees (REPCs) participated in a joint hazardous materials response functional exercise at Whately Elementary School on September 17th. Members of several Franklin County fire departments, including Heath, Montague, Sunderland, and Whately, as well as the Whately Police Department, worked side-by-side with the District IV Regional HazMat Team, the Northwest MA Incident Management Team, MA State Police, MA Department of Public Health, and the MA Emergency Management Agency to “respond” to a spill of an unidentified liquid released during a vehicle accident. Participants had to size up the scene, coordinate
and track resources according to their respective regional hazardous materials emergency response plans, establish communications between agencies and communities, protect the crime scene, evaluate evacuation options and methods to notify residents of the evacuation, and determine how to handle the press all while dealing with a constantly changing direction of the wind. Experienced fire chiefs mentored their captains and lieutenants as they navigated not only the hazmat incident, but also being in command of their peers.
The after action report indicates a few areas where the two counties could improve their response capabilities through training opportunities, such as how to use the Emergency Response Guidebook, higher level incident command system and officer training, how to write and follow a communications plan, and how to handle press inquiries. It also lists several strengths, including sizing up a hazmat scene, protecting the integrity of the scene, and leveraging many forms of communication to notify residents of the need to evacuate.
This was the first joint effort between the two REPCs and is likely to inspire future efforts together to get us more bang for our buck.
The Franklin and Hampshire County Regional Emergency Planning Committees will jointly sponsor a full scale hazmat exercise in Hatfield on September 17. Meet members of the District IV HazMat Team, practice sizing up a hazmat incident, operating under unified command, and communicating across county lines. For more information, or to register, click here.
The Franklin County Regional Emergency Planning Committee (REPC), with support from the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council, has been working on a project to bring a multi-agency coordination center (MACC) to Franklin County. The MACC will augment local emergency management staff by providing a robust emergency operations center ready to support local emergency management directors. If a response calls for more resources than a single town has within its borders, volunteers working at the MACC will assist in obtaining resources from other Franklin County towns before forwarding that request up to MEMA to access state resources. Situational awareness gathering and dissemination by the MACC will help to establish a better common operating picture for those communities in the midst of the disaster and for their neighboring communities.
A small working group of volunteers from the REPC has been researching different physical locations to house the MACC, which includes the Sheriff’s Office and Greenfield Community College. Discussions about sustainable funding and sustainable staffing are still taking place.
The MACC concept has received a thumbs up from the Franklin County Fire Chiefs Association and will go before the REPC for formal adoption during its April 4th meeting. REPC staff will be visiting emergency management directors and selectboards throughout the county in the coming months to explain the project and invite communities to sign a memorandum of understanding agreeing to use the MACC during future large-scale emergencies. For more information, please contact Dan Nietsche, emergency preparedness coordinator.
The Franklin County Emergency Communications System Oversight Committee has created a Radio System Trouble Ticket to alert the system manager of issues with the system. See the Committee’s webpage for more details.
The Franklin County Regional Emergency Planning Committee (REPC) and Mohawk Area Public Health Coalition (MAPHCO) now issue regular e-newsletters. If you’d like to sign up to receive either or both of them, click the button(s) below:
FRCOG’s Citizen Corps Program provided two volunteers from the Medical Reserve Corps (MRC) program to the Montague Parks and Recreations’ 2015 SawMill River 5K Race on January 1st in Montague Center. MRC volunteers Jeanne Dodge, a certified first responder and former EMT, and Erin McNay, a registered nurse, covered the first aid table at the event. Citizen Corps Coordinator, Robert Quinn-O’Connor (not pictured) ,was also at the event providing logistical support to the MRC volunteers.
Last week, Massachusetts has its first confirmed case of Enterovirus D68. In general, infants, children, and teenagers are most likley to get infected with enteroviruses. Children with asthma have a highger risk for severe respiratory illness. For more information on the virus, how it is spread, and what precautions your family should take, please see the MA Dept. of Public Health’s website.