The Barnstable County Regional Emergency Planning Committee (BCREPC) was organized in 2002 to assist Cape Cod communities with preparation for intentional and unintentional hazardous materials emergencies and to ensure municipal compliance with the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act, also known as SARA Title III. As BCREPC has developed over the years, it has seen its role expand to “All Hazards” emergency planning to address homeland security, meteorological, and public health issues that may affect the region.
Sixteen communities on Cape Cod and Nantucket are represented on the BCREPC. Participating towns include Barnstable, Bourne, Brewster, Chatham, Dennis, Eastham, Falmouth, Harwich, Mashpee, Orleans, Provincetown, Sandwich, Truro, Wellfleet, Yarmouth and Nantucket. Additionally, many private and public sector agencies also have membership on the committee including the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Office, the Barnstable County Resource Development Office, Cape Cod Commission, Cape and Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross, Cape Cod Hospital, Falmouth Hospital, American Red Cross, Army National Guard, Coast Guard, 102 Fighter Wing, Cape Cod Medical Reserve Corps, Cape Cod Transit Authority, NSTAR, the Massachusetts Maritime Academy and the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency. Chief George Baker of the Mashpee Fire Department and Chief Michael Whalen of the Dennis Police Department serve as the chair and vice chair respectively. Jeffrey Luce from NSTAR Electric & Gas Corporation served as the secretary until the end of the fiscal year when he retired from his NSTAR position. BCREPC would like to thank Jeff for his many years of service to the Cape and Islands and to the committee.
The fifteen communities on Cape Cod and Nantucket represented on the BCREPC also received ongoing Emergency Preparedness educational services throughout the year. This included regional trainings in WEB EOC, the Emergency Response Guidebook for hazardous materials, and emergency alert training through the Health and Homeland Alert Network (HHAN).
The Cape and Islands Chapter of the American Red Cross and BCREPC continued to develop a Regional Sheltering Plan for Barnstable County. The plan will establish strategically placed shelters on the Lower Cape, Mid-Cape and Outer Cape that will be the first to open and the last to close in response to emergencies and disasters. On December 19, 2009 BCREPC utilized the draft plan to open 4 shelters on Cape Cod as a response to a blizzard that affected the area. The locations were the Sandwich Oakridge School, Dennis Yarmouth Regional High School, Cape Cod Regional Technical High School and the Nauset Regional High School. Shelters were opened before the storm arrived and closed after roads were cleared of snow and ice on December 20th. Operation of the shelters was coordinated through the American Red Cross Cape and Islands Chapter, the Cape Cod Disaster Animal Response Team and the Barnstable County Incident Management Team, which established a Multi Agency Coordination Center (MACC) at the Massachusetts Military Reservation. Municipal agencies such as emergency management, police, fire and school departments were the key to getting these shelters opened in a timely manner. The Amateur Radio Emergency Service coordinated internal shelter communication and external communication with the MACC. Overall, the opening of the shelters and the deployment of volunteers was a great success.
Additionally, exercises were conducted at two of the shelters during fiscal year 2010 to further test the locations’ capabilities. On November 14, 2009, a deployment drill was conducted at the Sandwich Oakridge School. Representatives from our partner volunteer agencies and officials from the Town of Sandwich were very successful simulating the shelter opening for a weather event. This was an excellent practice opportunity since this shelter was opened for a real event in December. On March 27, 2010 a similar exercise was conducted at the Nauset Regional High School in Eastham. Representatives from Eastham, Wellfleet and our volunteer agencies had a successful day evaluating the facility’s capabilities.
Cape Cod and the Islands had a few narrow escapes during the 2009 hurricane season. In August 2009, Hurricane Bill showed potential for passing close to the Outer Cape and Nantucket during its path up the coast. Conference calls and meetings with state and local response agencies were coordinated by BCREPC to prepare for the storm which passed safely out to sea. By fostering and encouraging communication, resource sharing, and emergency asset identification, the region is continuing to improve its ability to respond to large disasters, making BCREPC an essential element in Barnstable County’s emergency response.
This year, the BCREPC also continued to develop and train its own Incident Management Team (IMT). The IMT is deployed during times of widespread cross-jurisdictional emergencies to assist local response agencies with the movement and deployment of response assets. This fiscal year members of the IMT were deployed twice by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts to assist with major events in the state. In March, the IMT assisted the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency with their response to flooding issues that affected Southeastern Massachusetts. The IMT also assisted with municipal requests for assistance and the development of Incident Action Plans. The IMT was again called in May to assist MEMA with their response to the Massachusetts Water Resources Authority (MWRA) water emergency. Team members assisted the Commonwealth with the distribution of bottled water to the City of Boston and the surrounding communities during a boil water order that affected over a million people. Other IMT deployments include assistance to the town of Provincetown on July 4, 2009 to manage Emergency Medical Service dispatching as a part of the towns annual Fourth of July festivities, and assistance on December 19, 2009 to the Barnstable County Sheriff’s Department Operated Regional Dispatch Center to assist with weather related support functions due to a predicted winter storm.