Press-Republican

Local News

September 7, 2011

Emergency Center manages disaster relief

Essex Co. hosts relief center with help from Calif. team

LEWIS — Since Tropical Storm Irene blasted the North Country a week and a half ago, a team of emergency-services professionals from California has been running Essex County's Emergency Operations Center day and night.

It's a world of constantly ringing phones, multiple workstations with computer data displays and information and maps projected on large overhead screens.

BRANCHED OUT

The East Bay Incident Management Team was formed several years ago to provide mutual aid for disaster coordination in the San Francisco Bay area but has since volunteered all over the country.

The group has operated the center in the County Public Safety Building in Lewis constantly since the county was wracked by flooding from the storm.

Its members will be leaving Friday, and county personnel will then staff the Emergency Operations Center.

"We would be struggling a lot, lot more if we didn't have these folks here," Operations Center Manager Patty Bashaw of Elizabethtown said Tuesday.

COORDINATION

The group sent 16 of its members to Essex County, said Team Leader Bruce Martin, who is the Fremont, Calif., fire chief.

"We bring the process to manage an incident," Martin said. "When you have something like this, any agency can be overwhelmed. We do it all behind the scenes."

The team coordinates relief efforts that include providing food, fuel, lights, sandbags, shovels, heavy equipment, generators and manpower where needed.

The towns of Keene, Jay and Moriah were hit hard by the storm, with many roads still closed and homes and businesses destroyed.

'LIKE THE ARMY'

"The EOC is also a place where all agencies can meet," Martin said. "We have daily briefings, and then we work out the plan for the next day overnight. It's like running the Army."

He said they follow the Incident Command System, which is part of the National Incident Management System established by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is the protocol used nationwide to manage disaster assistance.

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