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Central Berkshire Emergency Planners Have New Resources

By Andy McKeever
iBerkshires Staff
11:56AM / Wednesday, February 19, 2014
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The Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee met at the Rice Silk Mill on Wednesday.

PITTSFIELD, Mass. —  The Berkshire Community Action Council is offering the use of its 24-van fleet in case the county's elderly and vulnerable residents need evacuation.

Ed McNally, who heads the transportation for BCAC, told the Central Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee on Wednesday that the vans would be useful in a major incident.

McNally said are the 24 vehicles mostly available but that the drivers know where the most vulnerable people are.

There are restrictions on what personal information they can share, but they know the addresses and names, McNally said. The drivers also have medical training and the organization has resources such as a food bank to help out.

"We also want to contribute any way we can," he said.

Pittsfield Fire Chief Robert Czerwinski said BCAC hasn't been listed as a resource to the city before so another resource is welcomed.

Czerwinski, chairman of the committee, also reminded towns that they need to keep up with reporting of chemical storage. Large businesses are required to send a list of their inventory — provided each chemical exceeds a certain threshold — to the towns. Municipalities also need to inventory their own chemicals and keep a report on file.

"A lot of it is pretty generic stuff," Czerwinski said, but added that it needs to be documented or hefty fines could be levied. "We don't see a whole lot of crazy chemicals these days."

Also on Wednesday, Bruce Augusti, the regional coordinator for the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, asks coordinators to review the training levels of town's police, fire, highway and ambulance personnel. He said future grant programs may be linked to training levels and some towns may need focus on sending their employees for more training.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued guidelines for employee training, he said, and while there is penalty if the employees haven't reached the various training levels, it could hurt town's chances at funding in the future.

Also reported on Wednesday was that the Western Massachusetts Fire Chiefs Association has put together a tactical team of some 20 responders. The Berkshire County team specializes in trench rescue and two other teams — each with their own specialty— are stationed and available in other parts of Western Massachusetts.

Maj. Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County sheriff's office reported that the department had acquired a new vehicle designed for mass arrests and incident command. The recently purchased vehicle would be road ready by the next meeting.

Tags: emergency committee,   emergency preparedness,   sheriff,   

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