Friday, September 23, 2005
MEMA emergency response flexible, evolving
Peter Judge, public information officer for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA), the local arm of FEMA, says the agency sees itself as "a central point for coordinating plans generated at the local levels." Each of 350 municipalities is required to submit an evacuation plan and a list of local resources that could be shared in an emergency. In the case of a disaster, according to the web site, the agency would provide "aid to communities upon depletion of local resources for better coordination of the Commonwealth's assets." A call to the MEMA emergency center in Framingham could generate a referral to shelters in other towns or a mobilization of the state police, National Guard, or Red Cross.
Carlisle does not factor into any plan for an evacuation of Boston. In fact, says Judge, "Previous to Katrina, we failed to foresee an event that would require evacuation of the entire city." While the agency will be reviewing its assumptions based on the recent tragedy, Judge says the New Orleans scenario is "so remote from anywhere else in the country" due to the large population that was living below sea level. Even a multiple-terrorist event, it is believed, would be highly unlikely to destroy the entire city or disable transportation.
Judge characterizes the MEMA approach as "flexible plans, not black and white scenarios." Regarding a Boston evacuation, he points to rush hour and says, "We test our evacuation plan every day at 4:00." (MEMA's web site links to a detailed plan for evacuating Cape Cod, a potentially more problematic endeavor). As to shelter, "most people would relocate themselves and go to a cousin's house, not a cot." But if shelter were required it would be designated on an ad hoc basis depending on need and familiarity. "We want a place people would be able to find, like Fenway Park or the Fleet [sic], not your high school."
© 2005 The