Roundtable tackles emergency preparedness
By M.E. Jones
Nashoba Valley Voice
Friday, November 10, 2017
Vol. 3 No. 45
DEVENS – Hurricanes, Wildfires, Floods. When disaster strikes, businesses need to know what to do.
The Devens Eco-Efficiency Center’s monthly roundtable addressed that issue at its September session, when the topic was Emergency Preparedness. The speaker was Michael E. Russas, Response and Field Services Chief for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, or MEMA.
Emergency preparedness “makes good business sense” according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and “every business should have a plan.” In one of its pamphlets, FEMA, an agency of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, lays out a “common sense” plan for businesses. It includes a go-to flow chart and emergency supplies list and it should be updated regularly.
In that light, DEEC Executive Director Dona Neely and Program Administrator Tracey Pierce chose an apt topic. Over the past summer and early fall, emergency plans were activated in many areas of the country as super-size hurricanes hit Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
Devastating wildfires swept through Northern California. And a mass shooting in Las Vegas left scores of people dead or wounded. It reads like a perfect storm of disasters but Russas said the likelihood of a natural or human-caused disaster striking somewhere, anytime is almost a given. “Not if but when…” is his agency’s motto, he said.
That’s what emergency preparedness is all about. And from MEMA’s slant, it’s a business. To stay current and in “best practices” mode, the agency constantly takes feedback from other agencies and the public to assess and upgrade its operations, Russas said.
MEMA teams typically operate from a central location during major storm events and although satellite centers (trailers) can be deployed when needed, emergency responses are usually left up to the individual cities and towns, which have their own plans in place, Russas said. MEMA helps by coordinating emergency efforts, state-wide, compiling data from other agencies, such as weather reports, and reallocating resources while monitoring the storm from its war room at agency headquarters in Framingham, a windowless bunker built during the Cold War ear and recently remodeled with a Homeland Security grant, including new computer software. Now, his team can track a storm and pinpoint the worst spots on a map, as well as align needs with available resources.
New England’s weather woes trend toward blizzards and ice storms rather than floods, fires or tornadoes, Russas said. But power outages are fairly common and can cause big trouble, so the same advice applies in all cases: Be prepared for the worst.
“We take an all-hazards approach,” Russas said, from a flu pandemic to a hurricane.
It gave those at the table a lot to take away. Shannon Lozeau, of DRS Power Technologies said she’d take tips brought up during discussion back to her company in Fitchburg.
Monthly DEEC Roundtable agendas headline topics of interest to the business community, offering participants – owners, managers and other company representatives – a platform to share insights, experiences and ideas. “It’s an opportunity to learn from colleagues,” Neely said. For more information or to sign up for a Roundtable, contact email@example.com