' We need to make [shelters] more friendly for our elder citizens. The average age in the Sandwich shelter last winter was 86 years old. No one over 50 should be sleeping on those cots.'
(TNS) - Town officials gathered at Monday night's select board meeting to talk about local emergency management operations with a particular focus on winter storms and hurricane response. Each department head explained what his role is during such an event, improvements that have been made and short- and long-term goals.
"We are still tired from last year," said Sean O'Brien, the director of the Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee (BCREPC). "March really took a lot out of us. Especially for you, since it started here in January."
On the water
Before a storm, the harbormaster will pull boats from the water, said Harbormaster-Pier Manager Rex McKinsey.
"We try to be in the harbor to make sure everything is buttoned up as much as we can. Same with the pier," he said. "It takes us about three days to make sure we are prepared for a hurricane and other events."
Fires and flooding
Provincetown Fire Chief Mike Trovato said that since last winter's flooding and tidal surges his department has upgraded its equipment to handle more extreme situations.
"We did six cold water rescues in January to get people out of houses in the West End," he said. "We've upgraded our equipment since then and we have been working with the army surplus and now have trucks that can handle high levels of water."
Shelter and communications
Health Director and Deputy Emergency Manager Morgan Clark manages the emergency alert system, which sends out notifications to the public of impending storm activity, natural disasters, road closures and emergency shelter activations. The alerts are sent out by email or text message.
"We currently have 2,200 recipients signed up," said Clark.
The health department staff will coordinate with shelter operations under BCREPC auspices in joint operation with Truro. Both towns operate a "satellite shelter" as part of the county's regional shelter plan. According to a memo dated Dec. 4, the town is in the process of outfitting the Provincetown Public Library as the default warming and charging station for the town during daylight hours.
There will be a capital improvements program request at the April town meeting for funds for a generator to power both the library and the fire station next door.
Clark has also created kits with medical supplies that can help over 500 people in the event of medical emergencies.
"One of the biggest things we realized this year was how we address sheltering," said O'Brien. "We have an older population. We have the oldest population in New England, actually. We need to make [shelters] more friendly for our elder citizens. The average age in the Sandwich shelter last winter was 86 years old. No one over 50 should be sleeping on those cots. We need facilities that can hold a large number of people and we need to accommodate pets. That's what kept a lot of people home during Katrina."
When it comes to emergencies, some of the oldest technology is the most reliable, namely ham radios. Operators are needed, but training is available, O'Brien said.
Those interested in learning about ham radio operations can contact Clark by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
"During the first March storm there were a lot of power outages [Cape-wide]," said O'Brien. "We had one whole area at 80 percent in the dark. The only time we had seen that was during storm Nemo. And then the second storm came and caused more outages. Luckily the fixes were quick. But with a one-two punch some of those fixes may not hold."
Eversource response time has improved a lot, O'Brien said.
"We probably will never see underground utilities," he added. "It's just not in the cards."
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