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Ref: Massachusetts community hosts new emergency preparedness website and emergency command center

Eagle Tribune

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Haverhill's new emergency command center almost ready City launches disaster survival Web site




By Shawn Regan
Staff Writer

HAVERHILL — It's not quite the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency's underground command center in Framingham.

But it's also not the cramped conference room next to police Chief Alan DeNaro's second-floor office.

With DeNaro now doing double-duty as the city's emergency management director, the final touches are being put on Haverhill's new crisis headquarters in a spacious first-floor room in the police station that resembles a miniature NASA command center. Several elevated rows of chairs wired for phones and computers face a large monitor at the front of the room, which looks toward Main Street.

The center, which cost about $12,000, was paid for with money seized by federal agents from drug-dealers, DeNaro said. It is expected to be fully operational in May.

As emergency management director, DeNaro is charged with updating and developing plans that will allow the city to provide essential services to citizens in the event of natural disasters ranging from large fires, floods and extreme weather to hazardous chemical spills, terrorist attacks and disease outbreaks. The chief took over the position, which was formerly held by James Michitson since 1998, in November.

DeNaro launched a new Web site detailing the city's emergency plans and tips for surviving a disaster. The site, which is on the city's home page, includes links to other sites that provide information about local utility companies, mass transportation and extreme weather such as snowstorms, thunderstorms, hurricanes and drought. The site can be accessed at www.ci.haverhill.ma.us.

DeNaro has already sent his assistant, Deputy Emergency Management Director Sgt. David Currier, to national seminars on emergency planning and disaster preparedness. The crisis center was most recently activated during a fire that destroyed several businesses on Locke Street, the chief said.

"The protocol allows police and city services to work together and communicate with all our resources including MEMA, FEMA, local hospitals and schools," DeNaro said.

The chief said he is working on a emergency transportation plan that will include maps showing the easiest and fastest routes out of the city in the event of a major local catastrophe.

The city is also looking for volunteers to join its Civilian Emergency Response Team and its Medical Reserve Corps, DeNaro said. Information on volunteering is available on the city's Web site or by calling the police station.

The director's duties also include updating detailed emergency plans required by the state and federal governments, such as the continuity of government plan — which defines how the city will continue to function during a disaster.

"The most surprising thing I've found is how much work is involved behind the scenes, attending meetings and organizing the information," the chief said of his new assignment. "The Web site took a ton of work, but I think it's one of the best around. It's a great resource for the public."

BOX

How emergency management serves the public

r Organizes and distributes resources in natural disasters such as large fires and floods, severe weather or a flu pandemic

r Performs same function in case of a terrorist attack, hazardous chemical spill or nuclear accident

r Keeps city departments functioning during disasters

r Develops evacuation plans and routes

r Forms a medical reserve corps poised to respond to a pandemic

r Forms a community emergency response team of volunteers from city neighborhoods

To learn more about Haverhill's emergency management plans, go to www.ci.haverhill.ma.us and click on Emergency Management Agency.


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