North County Emergency Responders Receive National Award
|Members of the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Management Committee pose with the award they received from FEMA for community preparedness.|
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Local emergency responders were presented with an award for community preparedness from FEMA earlier this month in Washington, D.C.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency awarded the Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Management Committee the 2015 Individual and Community Preparedness Heroes Award.
North Adams Ambulance Assistant Manager Amalio Jusino said out of 138 applicants throughout the country, the NB-REPC received one of the 10 different awards available.
"You could say that we do it better than anyone else right now, and it's a team effort," Jusino said. "So our big message in Washington was we have a no-borders planning committee where everyone has a voice at the table and we feel like that is a success we have."
Jusino and ambulance General Manager John Meaney Jr. were joined by Police Director Michael Cozzaglio, Fire Director Stephen Meranti, Joseph Charon (recently retired as Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts' director of public safety), Lt. Colonel Thomas Grady of the sheriff's department and Berkshire Medical Center representative Lucy Britton in Washington to receive the award earlier this month.
Sheriff Thomas Bowler congratulated the committee on receiving the "monumental award."
"This group of individuals that are involved in public safety all share a huge passion for not only public safety, but the quality of life for people in this community," Bowler said. "This is collaboration at its best and this is team work at its best."
Mayor Richard Alcombright agreed and thanked them for their service to the community.
"What a great team we have here in the Northern Berkshires. They are looking out for us and taking care of us," Alcombright said. "When the bell rings, I have seen you guys in action under certain circumstances like Hurricane Irene, the tower collapse, and everything that has happened over the last few years, and it is just amazing what this team can do."
Jusino attributed their success to their focus on planning and training that leads to better responding.
Grady and said much of this new focus was a response to the 2001 terrorist attacks and how to bring a high level of preparedness to all situations and individuals.
"It made us recognize how disparate our systems were and how much we needed to work together as public safety entities and private entities," Grady said. "It's about keeping people safe every single day and this group just seems to just mesh and get it."
In its announcement of the awards, FEMA noted that "The Northern Berkshire Regional Emergency Planning Committee members are role models in their communities by developing and implementing comprehensive emergency response plans and activities to assure resilience and preparedness throughout western Massachusetts."
A second Community Preparedness Award also was awarded in Massachusetts: Craig Wolfe, the emergency preparedness coordinator of Hull, for his efforts in that town.
Jusino said the committee visited the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, which houses FEMA and Homeland Security offices, to hear from agency representatives. They also heard from other individuals and organizations who won different awards.
"We all sat there in awe," he said. "I speak for all of us when I say some of the programs out there were dynamic and there were some key things we were able to take back ... that are only going to benefit the community even more."
He said FEMA Deputy Administrator Timothy Manning presented the award at the Red Cross National Headquarters and they heard a speech by Kathryn Sullivan, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere, who was the first woman to walk in space.
They later were interviewed for public service announcements that will be aired throughout 2016 at FEMA headquarters.
"They will represent the Northern Berkshire Community as an agency that has received the award but they actually asked us questions specific to emergency response and preparedness," he said.
Jusino said during the trip they were able to tour the Capitol Building and speak with U.S. Sen. Edward Markey about needs in the community.
"The conversation went well, and there are issues and concerns that we have throughout the county that we would like to address," he said. "Whether it is implementing more funding in to emergency management or preparedness and some other things we want to work on."
Tags: awards, emergency committee, emergency services, FEMA, NAAS,