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The Board of Health wants better communication when the town is facing a health emergency.

Adams Board of Health Wants to Better Emergency Communication

By Jack GuerinoiBerkshires Staff
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ADAMS, Mass. — The Board of Health wants to establish a clearer communication protocol for local emergencies, such as the boil water order issued nearly three weeks ago.
 
They were informed of the issue by the code enforcement officer but would rather be directly contacted in the chain of communication.
 
"Any emergency in the town the Board of Health … should be informed of any health-related emergency," board member Bruce Shepley said. "This was one we should have been informed of directly."
 
The boil order was issued by the state Department of Environmental Protection to the Adams Fire District, a separate governmental body that operates the town's water system. The Board of Selectmen has also expressed a need to have better lines of communication.
 
Members met on Wednesday for the second time with John Barrett, superintendent of the Adams Fire District. Barrett two weeks ago had gone over the actions taken on water boil order and discussed with the board how the Health Department could be better looped in. This week he handed out documentation connected to that incident.
 
"I have a bunch of information for you guys, and there is a lot in there," he said. "You guys have a ton of paperwork and if you have any question call me then we can sit down and go over everything."
 
In late August, the Fire District had been informed that a sample collected from a water storage tank tested for E. coli. A second sample from a residence near the storage tank tested for total coliform bacteria.
 
Repeat tests taken the very next day and over the week of the tanks, samples from two other residences, and a test of the district’s well did not show any coliform bacteria. But it took days for the state Department of Environmental Protection to finally lift the boil order.
 
Shepley noted that if the code enforcement officer is out of the office that communication link will not work.
 
Board member Peter Hoyt agreed and said he didn't get the message about the boil order until far later in the day. 
 
"When you have an emergency there has to be a communication plan in place and how do we contact people," he said. "I didn’t know this was going on … all that needs to be put in place." 
 
Shepley added that this was no fault of Barrett, who followed protocol, but he just wished the board was involved in this protocol even if it had no direct action to take.
 
"He very clearly said that he was handling it and I think protocol was followed to the T," Shepley said. "He followed his checklist."
 
Board member David Rhoads asked that a meeting with Emergency Management Director Richard Kleiner be held sooner than later to hash out a communication plan.
 
"We are the policy people and the state regulation for emergencies is the Board of Health has a seat at the table, not the code enforcement officer," he said. "It is totally appropriate — the board should be informed and should be part of that chart."
 
The board didn’t have to take any action with the paperwork but merely wanted to take a closer look at the process for its own understanding.
 
In other business, the board voted to recommend a temporary food vendor permit to the Selectmen.
 
"I think we are all hinting at something, whatever verbiage we are looking for, that does not dissuade people, but we want people to be responsible," Shepley said.
 
Unlike North Adams and Pittsfield's policies where applications need to be submitted five business days before an event, the Adams policy is a little more flexible.
 
It states that late applications may be accepted but are not guaranteed. The board wants to encourage vendors to attend events and this policy would allow them to conduct a late inspection if possible. 
 
The policy will also be attached to facility request forms, so event planners know.

Tags: board of health,   BOH,   boil order,   drinking water,   

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