Local emergency response teams train for unexpected dangerous situations

Hampshire County

Over 100 people took part in Thursday’s exercise, employing the teamwork local emergency response teams would need in an actual emergency.

The Hampshire County Regional Shelter Management Team tested the region’s preparedness for an unexpected and dangerous situation.

“In an emergency, they have to leave very quickly for a shelter,” said Greg Lewis, a public emergency preparedness planner.

The full-scale shelter exercise involved 160 representatives from state and local emergency preparedness organizations, MEMA, law enforcement, and public colleges. UMass provided student nurses.

“Making sure the public is aware that there is a shelter open and what the rules will be and what they should bring as well,” Lewis told 22News.

If you didn’t know, the emergency shelters are pet-friendly.  

“If the animals are close by to the owners, then the owners are calmers,” Larry Holmberg, director of the Hampshire Emergency Animal Response Team, (H.E.A.R.T.), told 22News. “The pets are certainly calmer, but that also means the staff of the shelter is calmer.”

Volunteers were broken into groups, where each member had to role play, including an evaluator who provided feedback.

“You know we rely heavily on the American Red Cross, the Medical Reserve Corp., CERT Team from Easthampton,” said Assistant Chief of the Northampton Fire Department, John Davine. “You know we need volunteers. We need people who have the time and are willing to participate in the training.”

The Western Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council funded Thursday’s exercise.

The council plans to conduct additional shelter exercises, in Franklin, Berkshire, and Hampden counties over the next month, totaling around  $25,000.

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