Emergency operation center move debated

Monday January 7, 2013

HALIFAX -- The emergency operations center isn’t going to move out of the firehouse just yet, but the discussion has started.

"What are we looking for in a facility?" Selectboard member Edee Edwards asked townspeople, emergency responders and fellow board members at Thursday’s meeting. "And what are the pros and cons of those facilities?"

On Feb. 5, emergency responders will tell the Selectboard at its regular meeting which building would be the most viable to host the town’s emergency operations center.

The town building was an option that seemed like a decent alternative because there is more parking outside and more adequate heating and ventilation. Noise would be reduced by moving to that building, too.

Selectboard Chairman Lewis Sumner mentioned that there were "a lot of supplies downstairs" in the firehouse and there would not be enough room in the town building to hold it all.

The list included cabinets, bullhorns, maps and easels.

The town garage was another option that Edwards mentioned. Later in the meeting, it was determined that the town garage would probably not be the best place to move to.

"What I’d like to have is a plan and criteria," said Edwards.

This will require looking at the different locations and deciding which will be used for the emergency operations center.

"I really think you guys need to start developing a plan," Earl Holtz, board member, told the emergency responders present at the meeting. "What do we need to protect ourselves from? What is the equipment we need? I don’t think we have that yet. I don’t think we’re ready to commit to a better location yet. You guys need to get together and discuss that."

There was also discussion on the need to have mobility for all types of emergency situations.

Holtz mentioned that he had participated in an emergency exercise in Randolph, where materials were set up in a church.

A new radio and radio antennae have recently been installed in the Halifax firehouse.

The noise from different radios and pagers was a concern. The air compressor created a lot of noise as well.

Edwards talked about having a permanent place for the center, noting that the firehouse had a better chance of flooding than perhaps another building.

There was talk about having a virtual operations center by utilizing high-speed Internet, a satellite and a back-up generator, as well as utilizing more drills and exercises such as a catastrophic disaster exercise mentioned by Edwards.

Roles in the town, during emergencies, were also addressed. But the main topic was about getting information together on where to move the emergency operations center.

"I think there’s more conversation that we need to have about preparing for our roles as the Selectboard and making sure that we delegate effectively enough power to the incident commander to get some of the emergency type supplies we need," said Edwards.

She also mentioned that the Selectboard could work as the incident commander for the town, making it a three-person governing body for helping during emergencies. It usually is a job that makes one person responsible for many parts of handling an emergency response.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.


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