Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County sheriff's office addresses the drill participants on Wednesday morning.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — Emergency responders from throughout North County were at the St. Elizabeth's Parish Center on Wednesday and hoping that their next visit will not be any time soon.
The police, fire, and ambulance personnel were on hand to take part in an evacuation and emergency shelter simulation organized by the county's Regional Emergency Planning Committee.
Although they wore different uniforms with various insignia from their hometown agencies or municipalities, the emergency personnel in the room shared a common mission: keeping residents safe in the event of a crisis.
And several times Wednesday, they were reminded that mission's success depends on the various agencies working in concert.
"Nobody can do this stuff alone," Lt. Col. Thomas Grady of the Berkshire County sheriff's office told the group. "There is no one entity that has the resources in Berkshire County, if we have a large-scale event, to manage the situation on their own.
"On a day-to-day basis in the public safety world, we rely on mutual aid. You guys see that and live it every day. It's no different in the large-scale events. The difference in the large-scale events is getting people trained prior to the event and having the relationships developed so when the events do happen, we have a way to be able to get to the end result."
Grady told his fellow first-responders to use the exercise as a chance not only to learn about the specific roles they may play in an emergency but also to make personal connections.
"The people you don't know in this room today, introduce yourself," he said. "Get those phone numbers. So that when stuff starts to happen — whether it's the drill/training process or we have a real incident — you can start putting names and faces together."
North Adams Mayor Thomas Benard said he has learned that his role in a crisis is to let the professionals take the lead and be there to support police officers, firefighters and emergency medical technicians as needed. And he has learned how the personnel from departments throughout North Berkshire have made the connections that Grady talked about.
"I really appreciate that when you do this, you take a no-borders approach," Bernard said. "So when there is something that happens and people need to respond, those lines between Williamstown and North Adams and Adams and Clarksburg and Florida and Savoy and New Ashford all disappear, and the work becomes the focus.
"That's part of the reason this is an award-winning Regional Emergency Planning Committee, one that's been recognized by FEMA. So much of the equipment that's in this room today was secured by grants because funders know that if they make the investment, the people in this room, the people in the communities we serve, know how to make the most of the tools available."
Grady said Wednesday's exercise was funded by a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency distributed through the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to regional planning committees throughout the commonwealth.
In Berkshire County, the other two local committees, in central county and South County, are using their grant money this round to conduct "table top" exercises rather than full-scale drills like the one in North Adams on Wednesday, Grady said.
Both types of exercises play a role in a comprehensive approach to training first responders.
"It's a building block approach to training," Grady said. "So we try to go from conferences and classroom education, then into tabletop exercises. From the tabletop exercise, the next progression would be a functional exercise, which is a partial activation of resources, to test certain pieces of them. And then we move to the full-scale.
"We try to use the tiered approach so that we are always, hopefully, getting people trained before they participate. What we saw in the past is a lot of people would get to the shelter or an evacuation location who had no training, and then they were looking for direction as to what to do."
On Wednesday morning, "evacuees" were picked up at two locations off-site and transported by Dufour Tours to St. Elizabeth's, where they were checked in by emergency personnel, evaluated medically if necessary and, eventually, taken into the parish center's auditorium, where people would be housed in the event of an emergency.
Rows of cots were set up by way of demonstration, and other emergency response equipment, including a large decontamination shower, were set up so that participants could get a sense of what would be available in the event of an actual emergency.
Bernard reminded all of the many different threats that residents may face.
"You need to keep up the work you're doing and double down on the collaborative efforts, to continue to take that all-hazards approach," he said.
"Whether we're talking about weather, whether we're talking hazardous materials, whether we're talking about power outages, whether we're talking about war situations, active shooters, things we don't want to think about — but we know if we don't prepare, if we don't have protocols and plans in place, we're really going to be in trouble."
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North Adams Veterans Memorial Bridge Deemed 'Structurally Deficient'
By Tammy DanielsiBerkshires Staff
Jersey barriers and barrels were put up this week to limit a section of the roadway to two lanes. Plans are to soon prohibit large trucks from the bridge.
NORTH ADAMS, Mass. — The 61-year-old Veterans Memorial Bridge has been declared "structurally deficient" after the most recent inspection by the state Department of Transportation.
The city's Department of Public Services in a Facebook post on Thursday said the state has issued weight limit restrictions and lane closures.
"These restrictions are due to structural deficiencies found during a recent inspection and are necessary to keep the bridge open until a repair plan can be implemented," stated the post. "Alternate truck routes [sic] detour signage will be posted over the next few weeks. Thank you for your patience."
The span is briefly narrowed to two lanes about halfway through its 171-foot span with barrels and jersey barriers.
"This is a precautionary measure, because there is some critical deterioration," said Mayor Jennifer Macksey on Friday. "So these actions are being taken to really make sure that the rest of the integrity is safe and that big heavy vehicles avoid the area when we get to that point."
The ratings posted by MassDOT's Highway Division on Friday list a deck condition of 7, which is considered "good." But the superstructure rated a 3 and the substructure a 5.
According to the Federal Highway Administration, ratings of 4 or less are classified as poor and 5 or 6 as good. The superstructure's rating of 3 lead to its designation as "structurally deficient."
Santa arrived on a fire truck with the Clarksburg Volunteer Fire Department and was greeted with cheers but a large crowd of children. He helped VFW members Joseph Bushika and Edward Denault in lighting the young tree, which replaced an older permanent tree.
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