Disasters and Town Management Series

In 2012, the Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council supported the Franklin County Regional Emergency Planning Committee in creating a training series for selectmen and town administrators on what their roles are during an emergency. Those seminars and the tabletop exercise conducted at the conclusion of the series were videotaped so they could be shared with those who couldn’t attend in person and with new selectmen and town administrators joining the field.

Basic ICS (Incident Command System) and Emergency Operations Centers – Vol. 1
Basic ICS (Incident Command System) and Emergency Operations Centers – Vol. 2
In this seminar, Shelburne Fire Chief John Taylor teaches FEMA Emergency Management Institute’s “Incident Command System (ICS) Overview for Executives/Senior Officials” course. Following the course, there is discussion of what goes on in an emergency operations center during a disaster and what role elected officials may play in an EOC. Butch Garrity from Shelburne Control Dispatch Center also offers a brief summary of the role Dispatch plays as a coordination center for mutual aid, mass casualty responses, and public health emergencies.

Public Information Officer
The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency‘s (MEMA) public information officer, Peter Judge, teaches EMI’s course entitled “Public Information Officer Awareness Training.” This course is intended to provide an orientation to the public information function and the role of the public information officer in the public safety/emergency management environment.

Documentation and Paperwork
Representatives from MEMA and FEMA teach participants what it means to declare a state of emergency and how one would go about doing so. They also discuss what documentation during and after a disaster is necessary to provide a complete project worksheet for FEMA public assistance. Workshop instructors then give an overview of FEMA’s public assistance program, as well as other forms of assistance such as that available through the Massachusetts Department of Transportation, MA Department of Housing and Community Development, and the Natural Resources Conservation Program. Proper documentation of donations and volunteer labor is also discussed. The MA Department of Revenue provides guidance on financial regulations, such as emergency borrowing, and the FRCOG’s certified procurement officer covers emergency procurement procedures. A representative from the Division of Open Government speaks briefly about how Open Meeting Law pertains to calling emergency meetings of public boards.

You can download a Local Emergency Declaration Template to fill out for your own town and submit it to MEMA to declare an emergency.

Tabletop Exercise
The training series culminates in a tabletop exercise, where selectmen, town administrators, emergency management directors, and subject matter experts such as MEMA personnel work their way through scenario that involves a flood event occurring on the Deerfield River and affecting Charlemont, Buckland, Shelburne, Conway, and Deerfield. The five towns’ emergency operations centers are open and must coordinate their response and information disseminated to the public.

Reflections on the Training Series
Three selectmen who participated in the series share what they learned and how they work with their emergency managers to prepare their towns for emergencies.