Planning Key to Emergency Management

By John Anderson

The thought of a hurricane, tornado or major fire striking Auburn is unimaginable for most people, but to the members of Auburn’s Local Emergency Management Planning Committee (LEMPC), they are regular topics of discussion. Preparation is a key to handling disasters.

Retired Fire Chief Roger Belhumeur serves as Auburn’s Emergency Management Director and the committee met last night to discuss several important topics. The potential use of the new middle school as the primary emergency shelter location was examined, and most members were in favor.

Auburn High School currently serves as the primary shelter, but it sits in a “hundred year flood plain.”  The new middle school does not. Since the building is still in the design phase, needed modifications could be built in rather than retrofitted. Grants will be sought to pay for the changes.

Public Health Director Darlene Coyle said one of the primary reasons people show up at shelters is to recharge their cell phones and other electronic devices. Adequate outlets are lacking in the high school gymnasium.

Building Commissioner Nick Antanavica also said the middle school will have a distinct academic wing that can be “locked down” during a shelter use. This would keep people in the gymnasium and locker rooms where they should be.

Belhumeur will be setting up a meeting with school officials to discuss this matter further. He hopes to correct some misinformation that the school department received from the project architects after a Development Coordinating Group meeting with the town.

Another key to handling disasters is the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). There are about 25 volunteers on Auburn’s CERT, but there is always room for more. Members are trained in everything from first aid to traffic control, and they are the backbone of the emergency shelters. CERT members have also participated in hazardous waste collection days and large events like the July 4th festivities.

Belhumeur reported that OEM’s Mobile Emergency Operations Center is nearly complete. The air conditioned and heated trailer houses communications equipment and can be relocated as needed to help mitigate an emergency.

The town’s Community Emergency Management Plan is also nearing completion. It was last updated in 1999 when Belhumeur was still the Fire Chief. Once complete, it will be distributed to key personnel in both hard copy and on a digital flash drive.