Duxbury Emergency Management Agency (DEMA), formerly know as Duxbury Civil Defense, is located in the Central Fire Station at 668 Tremont Street (Rte. 3A) in Duxbury. Although the terms of the Civil Defense Act included disasters in general, the term “Civil Defense,” as the name implies, was coined when the threat of an international nuclear attack was a concern after World War II. The agency was developed to provide information and protection to civilians should such an attack occur. Most local Civil Defense Agencies were renamed “Emergency Management” agencies as this threat diminished. The agency took on a more encompassing role that handles both man-made and natural disasters. Sadly, as we all know, we are once again facing domestic attacks.
Five years ago, Emergency Planning (EP) for terrorism was relatively new, but this agency was looking at it then, long before September 11. Well developed plans are in place for concerns regarding nuclear waste and potential problems with nuclear power stations. Now, “dirty bombs” must be taken into consideration although despite what you may be reading in the newspapers, the radiation from them is not life-threatening. Although it is imperative that we plan for these frightening possibilities, we need to keep in perspective the everyday, more common and frequent incidences that we confront. An example of this is a hazardous material (HAZMAT) spill on a main thoroughfare. How often do you read about that in the newspaper or see it on the 6 PM news? Compare that to the number of terrorist attacks we’ve experienced. Occurring less often, but more familiar to us all are multiple car accidents with mass casualties, hurricanes, coastal flooding, winter storms, power outages, and wind damage, all affecting the Town of Duxbury and coming within the realm of Emergency Planning and Preparedness.
The planning for such events takes place in the administrative office of DEMA. The actual command center while in the midst of a disaster, is in the Emergency Operations Center (EOC) in the Fire Station. It is a fully-functional facility that allows town officials and affected department heads to brainstorm, discuss and determine what steps need to be taken in the course of a particular event.
Not everyone is aware that all towns have emergency plans required by the State. In Duxbury, such a plan is called the Comprehensive Emergency Management (CEM) Plan. This document includes information needed to aid in “...mitigat(ing) the effects of a hazard...prepar(ing) for measures to be taken which will preserve life and minimize damage, to respond during emergencies and provide necessary assistance, and to establish a recovery system in order to return the community to its normal state of affairs.” (CEM, p. ii) Current names of personnel, facilities, phone numbers, etc. are recorded in this Plan. Copies of this Plan exist are available for review at the Town Manager’s Office, the Duxbury Free Library, and the Central Fire Station as public information.
More specifically related to a radiological disaster associated with the Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS) is the Radiological Emergency Response Plan (RERP) and Duxbury’s Implementing Procedures (IP’s). There are five towns in the Emergency Planning Zone (EPZ) affected by the PNPS of which Duxbury is one. The RERP is generic for all five towns describing PNPS’s role in a nuclear disaster. However, the IP’s are specific to each town, naming who is needed from each department and in what capacity. These controlled documents are revised yearly at minimum, or as needed if a substantial change takes place within the town. Copies of these for public review are also in the above-mentioned facilities.
Of biggest concern during any kind of substantial emergency in Duxbury, is the need and means by which to evacuate and/or shelter the residents. Besides the CEM Plan, the RERP and IP’s are very sophisticated procedures that could be easily utilized regardless of the nature of the incident (i.e., not necessarily a radiological emergency).
First, within, and on the outskirts of Duxbury are three (3) evacuation bus routes. A Transportation Staging Area (TSA) located at Martinson Jr. High School in Marshfield stages busses (coordinated with MEMA’s Transportation Officer) that travel around these routes that people are encouraged to use if they have any transportation needs. Notification of evacuation is announced over Emergency Alert Systems (EAS) and it is requested that any questions with regard to evacuation should be directed to the Duxbury Emergency Management Agency and NOT the Police or Fire Departments. Their emergency lines at this time are crucial. If you have your own transportation, maps showing the evacuation routes to the Reception Center at Braintree High School are in the Public Information Calendar. This public service publication is sent out to all Duxbury residents shortly before the first of each year and has all pertinent information to assist residents in the event of an emergency. Much of this information is also on the last page and back cover of your local phone directory.
Secondly, special evacuation procedures for school students are in place if the emergency is of a radiological, chemical, or HAZMAT nature. A precautionary transfer of students will occur and they will be brought to the Host School located at Braintree High School. This means that before any threat of a radioactive release that exceeds EPA (Environment Protection Agency) standards, or a chemical/HAZMAT release, they are relocated. In the event of a natural disaster, given a longer time frame for preparation, the schools will have been ordered closed and will have returned students home as under normal circumstances. They would then be considered part of the “general public” who, hopefully, are already reviewing their own emergency plans. Assistance is available by contacting the Duxbury Emergency Management Agency.
As Potassium Iodide (KI) is now available to our school children, procedures are in place that coordinate the efforts of nurses and home room teachers (in the public schools) to disseminate and administer KI for those students whose parents have given consent on the school medical card if it is recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MDPH). Directors at private day cares can make their own arrangements with parents as to how KI distribution/administration will take place when MDPH’s recommendation is given.
Besides evacuation, orders may be given to “Shelter-in-Place.” Generally, this is as it implies; go inside, shut windows, go to the center point in the building, and stay indoors until the risk is over. Listen to EAS stations (WPLM - 99.1 FM & 1390 AM, WATD - 95.9 FM, and WBMX - 98.5 FM), and shut off sources of outside air (see Public Information Calendar or call the Office of Emergency Management - 934-7159 or Emergency Operations Center - 934-7141 for further information). Bring pets or livestock inside with food and water that is protected.
Care has also been taken, by way of maintaining a list of residents in Town that have any special needs (i.e., medical, mental, or physical disabilities) to assist them as needed. In the event of an emergency, they are notified from the EOC and reminded that DEMA is here to help, especially if evacuation or sheltering is ordered. For the hearing impaired, TTY (Teletypewriter) phone numbers for Police and the Duxbury Emergency Management Agency are listed in the calendar or the phone book. The list of these individuals is strictly confidential and is carefully maintained at the Office of Emergency Management. Anyone wishing information about this list or wishing to be put on this list can call the Office of Emergency Management or fill out the card on the back cover of the Public Information Calendar and mail it to the address indicated.
Besides the calendar and the phone book, other sources of information with regard to all kinds of emergencies are numerous brochures, fliers, catalogs, etc. available locally at the Town Hall, the Library, or the Fire Department. A call to MEMA - Area II, Bridgewater (1-508-697-3101) or MEMA Headquarters - Framingham (1-800-982-6846 ) could answer any questions regarding what literature is available. The CEM Plan or the RERP at the Library are good sources of finding out what department handles any specific questions or problems residents may have.
Another level of planning for the safety of the residents of Duxbury is the development of the Pilgrim Area Local Emergency Planning Committee (or LEPC). Regionally with Kingston and Marshfield, this committee, comprised of public officials, specialists, media, etc., from each community, coordinates their efforts to work together during a large HAZMAT incident affecting any of these towns, much like mutual aid in the fire service. During a widespread chemical or biological related incident, the LEPC would most likely work with the local and state Emergency Management Agencies, police, and Boards of Health.
Hopefully, this overview of Duxbury’s emergency plans and procedures will reassure residents that their needs ARE being addressed. Some emergencies we can certainly count on while others may never happen. Despite that, the risks are always there and plans MUST BE IN PLACE. MEMA’s philosophy of “not if, but when?” as we now know all too well, should be adopted by all of us.
In part one of “Emergency Planning As I See It,” an overview of Emergency Planning suggested several areas where the Duxbury Emergency Management Agency (DEMA) focuses its attention. Equally important was the message that whatever type of emergency we may face, all those affected collectively put on their thinking caps and work together. The examples of the waterfront emergencies given in the previous article are perfect cases in point.
A brief history of the evolvement of Emergency Management and Emergency Planning may be helpful at this point. Many of us around in the 1950’s are familiar with the term “Civil Defense.” This term was coined when our country worried about international attacks following World War II (remember those drills where we hid under our desks at school?). As time passed, and those worries slowly faded, the attention shifted to other areas of local and national concern. Many were natural disasters such as hurricanes, storms, flooding, tornadoes, etc., but man-made disasters occurred as well. Through the devastating experiences of these events, often times ending tragically, much was learned, and emergency planning began to emerge. In light of September 11, we are once again in a “national defense” mode, but the emergency planning and management that developed from the other disasters, has us much better prepared for what we’re facing now.
When residents of a community think of emergencies and the agency responsible for responding to them, most folks will think of their local police and fire departments. But many residents are not familiar with what other protocols are in place to protect them. In the Town of Duxbury, we are fortunate to have a great group of people comprised of agency heads, agency members, citizen and non-citizen volunteers that have in the past, and continue today, to contribute their time, suggestions, and valuable service in developing and reviewing these other plans.
Duxbury Emergency Management Agency’s role has been previously mentioned in its response to natural and man-made disasters. Until September 11, most people in the community were not aware of its existence, let alone its function. In the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), all agencies and/or departments, each with their own professional and trained input, come together to determine the best course of action to follow in an emergency. Well-written and developed Implementing Procedures (IP’s) are in place as suggested guidelines. This is where the dynamic teamwork of all Town officials, agencies, and volunteers becomes clearly evident.
Every community in the Commonwealth has a plan called the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan (CEMP). This, like all the other plans, is public information (you can find them in the library or in the EOC). DEMA is charged with “the responsibility to develop and implement Comprehensive Emergency Management (CEM v, 5/98). This document emphasizes mitigation and recovery in an emergency as well as preparedness and response (the four phases of CEM).
Many communities in the State of Massachusetts have a committee called the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC). This committee focuses its attention on hazardous materials (Hazmat) incidents. Duxbury’s LEPC is regional with Kingston and Marshfield. This committee goes outside of the local level of response and includes State agencies, businesses, and media. There are three levels of certification with the State, and Duxbury is currently certified at the “start up” level. It is required to test annually.
A Multi-Hazard School Evacuation Plan was developed in August 2001 between the Fire and School Departments. It covers virtually every conceivable emergency that could take place in a school environment. Incident Command, school, fire, and police personnel responsibilities, and evacuation issues are among the many topics discussed in this detailed plan.
Least popular, but equally important in planning, is the Radiological Emergency Response Plan (RERP) surrounding Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station (PNPS). This is a highly regulated plan that conforms with “requirements and guidelines established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC)…consistent with the Massachusetts Comprehensive Emergency Plan (CEMP)” (RERP. 7/02). It is supported by Implementing Procedures that specifically define who does what in a radiological emergency. It is tested bi-annually and includes all Town agencies and Town administration. Despite personal feelings about PNPS, the necessity of these plans gives Duxbury and surrounding Towns, a progressive edge in planning that other communities that rely solely on their CEMP in an emergency do not have.
More details about each of these plans will follow in future articles.