BELLOWS FALLS -- An emergency exercise planned for the Arch Bridge on Tuesday has been postponed as town officials and emergency personnel have their hands full with Hurricane Sandy.
Rockingham/Bellows Falls Municipal Manager Tim Cullenen said the exercise involving Walpole, N.H., and Rockingham will be rescheduled to later date -- most likely in November.
He said the drill was plan involves both towns as well as their police, fire and highway departments, the Windham County Sheriff’s Department, the state police from Vermont and New Hampshire.
"I’ve got to believe everything will be pretty darn busy," Cullenen said. "I know (our) highway department will be pushed to the limit."
He said the plan, once the exercise is carried out, is to delay 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.
Cullenen stressed, however, that traffic would not be stopped in its entirety during the drill.
Bellows Falls Police Chief Ron Lake said the exercise, which will also include the local sewer and water departments, will not block any streets.
"We’ve already practiced this before, but we haven’t used the Arch Bridge as our location," he said. "It is just to see how long it will take us to respond with the equipment and staffing we have."
"We’re just ready," he said.
Lake said the highway department is prepared and has its equipment strategically placed around the town. He added that the fire department, headed by Fire Chief Bill Weston, is making sure all their equipment is ready and will go door to door at some point to see if anyone needs assistance fixing a power outage.
"And, as for the police department, we will do our best to serve as always," Lake said. "We can just hope we are as prepared as we can be."
Rockingham is still reeling from the effects caused by Tropical Storm Irene, which took an unusual path up the East Coast and wreaked havoc on sections of Vermont in August 2011. Recovery from that tempest is still in progress and Lake said the experience nearly exactly 14 months ago has made the state more aware of the perils and devastation weather can cause.
Domenic Poli can be reached at email@example.com, or 802-254-2311, ext. 277.