2006-06-15 / Front Page

Town's hurricane plan gets overhaul

By Dotti Farrington

The town's emergency management system is undergoing a review and overhaul, with a special focus on handling special needs because of hurricanes, the Town Council was advised Monday by Police Chief Thomas Tighe, who is also the town's emergency management director, and Deputy Director Fred Pease.

They said they are preparing to switch the town's emergency shelter from its long-time location at the Lawn Avenue School to the neighboring Melrose school. They said the Melrose building and location represents a safer refuge, especially from hurricanes rated category three or higher. Such a change has been considered for some years.

Tighe has applied for a grant for a generator for Melrose school to enable use of that building for the shelter. He expects a decision on getting the grant within a month, he said. The emergency management leaders said the school was being prepared to shelter a minimum of 200, and that classrooms could be used if more people needed shelter. There is no study projecting how many residents "would be vulnerable, in what type of disaster."

The police chief reported that American Red Cross disaster personnel were due to inspect the Melrose school this week for its shelter capabilities and needs for conversion. He said the Red Cross already has a few Jamestown residents trained to staff an emergency shelter, and additional residents are involved in an ongoing training program.

Tighe and Pease reported that the town has been assured by the Federal Emergency Management Agency that a plan is in place to dispatch trailers with ice, water, and tarps to any community in jeopardy, with Jamestown's receiving area to be at the Lawn Avenue School grounds "whether the school is standing or not," according to Pease.

That remark and his saying that the trailer plan "is cast in Jello" led to the councilors to remark that assurance from the FEMA "does not inspire confidence." Pease said he meant only that the town has not received anything in writing about the emergency plan, but officials did have reason to believe the assistance will be available.

Tighe said seasonal preparations for hurricanes was intensifying and work was being done to make sure all town personnel know what will be expected of them and that all facilities will be ready.

The police chief reviewed plans for both the north and south ends of the island. Both call for pre-staging emergency equipment and supplies before the storm arrives. Tighe said such plans have long been part of the island's emergency preparedness system.

Councilor Barbara Szepatowski said she is working with the Humane Society of Jamestown on plans for pets and other animals that might need help in disasters.

Tighe noted that the latest activities as part of his report on attending the week-long National Hurricane Conference in April.

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