Friday, September 30, 2005
Selectmen see gaps in emergency preparedness
In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita all communities are asking the question, "Are we prepared?" At its meeting on Tuesday evening, the Board of Selectmen continued their review of Carlisle's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan and their own preparedness — or lack of it — for managing a crisis.
Recognizing a major gap in the plan, the Selectmen directed the School Building Committee (SBC) to work toward providing a generator for the school building in the event of loss of power. The school is identified in Carlisle's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan as a shelter for the community, but currently has no emergency power. Electricity is needed to pump water and sewage, refrigerate emergency medications, and provide lighting and heat.
The board also approved the Carlisle Emergency Dispensing Site Plan, prepared by the Board of Health, which details how the town would respond to a medical emergency requiring immunizations or medications for the entire population.
Emergency generator for school
School Business Manager and SBC member Steve Moore said that preliminary cost estimates suggest that a generator to power the Corey auditorium might cost $100,000, and a larger unit to power the entire Carlisle School campus might be around $150,000. The town has already approved a contingency of $180,000 for the school wastewater treatment system, currently under construction. If these funds are not needed, they could be used to fund an emergency generator.
"What kind of contingency do we want to prepare for?" asked School Committee and SBC member Wendell Sykes? He outlined three possible scenarios:
1. A power outage at the Carlisle School
2. A prolonged town-wide power outage
3. A Katrina-type regional disaster.
"Under scenario 1, we can just send the kids home," Sykes continued. "Scenario 3 is the responsibility of the state," said Selectman Tim Hult. "We have responsibility [for scenario 2] to provide shelter for Carlisle citizens for a period of time." In an interview with the Mosquito, Peter Judge of the Massachusetts branch of FEMA (MEMA) emphasized that local municipalities are responsible for their own citizens in any emergency. However, Carlisle is not part of any plan for sheltering other town's citizens (see "MEMA emergency response flexible, evolving" Sept.23 Mosquito).
The size of the fuel tank will determine how long the shelter could operate. Enough fuel for three weeks would require an "enormous" tank. The Selectmen decided that enough fuel to run the generator for one week may be sufficient.
The Selectmen instructed the SBC to prepare a site for a future emergency generator, including a slab for the unit, additional electrical conduits and cables, and all other needed installations except the generator and fuel tank, for which additional funding may be sought at the 2006 Spring Town Meeting.
Emergency Dispensing Site Plan
Board of Health Agent Linda Fantasia asked the Selectmen to approve the Emergency Dispensing Site Plan, which details Carlisle's response in case of an epidemic or other medical emergency. If an emergency is recognized, medications will be delivered to Carlisle by the Strategic National Stockpile within 12 hours. Carlisle then must immunize or dispense medications to 80% of town residents within 48 hours, and to the remainder within three days. The Selectmen approved the Emergency Dispensing Site Plan without discussion.
Carlisle Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director David Flannery said that the Carlisle Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, a state-required document in a large looseleaf binder, is on file with the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. The Plan will be updated in February 2006 in a new web-site format which will allow multiple agencies and key individuals to share and update the information. The Plan is a non-public document, as it contains sensitive information on critical public safety installations in town.
Flannery pointed out that in dealing with natural disasters citizens should be self-reliant for the first 24 to 48 hours, and town leadership needs to help them prepare. He suggested that residents consult the excellent MEMA web site www.securityinknowledge.com (see "Emergency supply kit" Sept. 23 Mosquito) for information on emergency supplies and preparations. Fantasia said that a mailer with emergency preparedness information will go out to all residents this fall.
Hult emphasized the need for a communication plan. "We need to tell people where to call to get information on what's going on," he said. People also need to know where they can obtain emergency supplies, such as water, said Flannery. If television and telephones are not operational, emergency services may need to rely on the radio, or even police cruisers going through neighborhoods. A better-defined communications system is needed.
Selectman Chair Doug Stevenson related his past experience as a dispatcher. During power outages, people call the dispatcher, who does not have the information. Some newcomers who have never lived in a small town before particularly need help. Stevenson recalled getting questions such as, "When is the town going to turn the water back on?"
Is the town ready?
Town Administrator Madonna McKenzie, who chairs Carlisle's Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), listed a number of fundamental needs to make the Plan operational. Key personnel may each know their own roles, but they need to understand the whole system and how to work with each other, she said. The Board of Selectmen, as head of local government, needs to be trained and certified on the National Incident Management System (NIMS). Selectman Tony Allison admitted that he and other Selectmen are not well-informed. The town needs to do some disaster exercises, McKenzie suggested.
Carlisle also needs to have a list of providers of emergency supplies and equipment, such as food and refrigeration, and to have supply agreements in place.
© 2005 The