Wednesday November 14, 2012

BELLOWS FALLS -- The Arch Bridge emergency exercise postponed due to Hurricane Sandy has been rescheduled for later this month.

According to Rockingham/Bellows Falls Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen, the drill, originally slated for Tuesday, Oct. 30, has been set for Tuesday, Nov. 27. The exercise involving Walpole, N.H., and Rockingham was put on hold because town officials and emergency personnel were busy preparing for the storm. All necessary precautions were taken to ensure Sandy did not have the same devastating effects as Tropical Storm Irene did in August 2011.

Cullenen previously said the drill will involve delaying traffic on and off the bridge in order to mobilize emergency responders on both sides of the river as if there were some sort of catastrophic event. He used the idea of a train fire under the bridge as an example.

The municipal manager stressed, however, that traffic will not be stopped in its entirety during the drill.

Cullenen told the Reformer the plan involves both towns as well as their police, fire and highway departments, the Windham County Sheriff’s Department and the state police from Vermont and New Hampshire.

He said the exercise will likely consist of a fire truck at the nearby intersection and the direction of traffic around it.

"Then the call will go out to the fire departments and the police departments to see how quickly people can get there," he said.

The goal is to determine what emergency response time is when traffic is slowed down, he said.


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Cullenen said there have been a series of planning meeting with relevant parties present.

Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake said last month the exercise, which will also include the local sewer and water departments, will not block any streets. He said this drill has been practiced before, though the Arch Bridge has not been used as the location.

He said the exercise will gauge how long it takes the towns to respond to an emergency with the equipment and staffing they have available.

Domenic Poli can be reached at dpoli@reformer.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.