After Irene, Towns Update Emergency Response Plans
10/17/11 7:34AM By Kirk Carapezza  Download MP3
(Host) Tropical Storm Irene tested emergency response plans in several Vermont cities and towns. In some cases, those plans proved to be insufficient.
Now, VPR's Kirk Carapezza says many Vermont towns, including some that weren't even hit by flooding, are re-crafting their plans.
(Carapezza) Irene did relatively little damage in Craftsbury - just $10,000 in road repairs.
But seeing how Irene devastated other communities in the flood zone has inspired Craftsbury's Select Board to customize the state issued Rapid Response Plan.
(Urie) "Irene brought us to the point of saying, ‘If this had hit Craftsbury, what would we do?'"
(Carapezza) Bruce Urie is chair of the Craftsbury Select Board. He says that before Irene most people weren't even aware the town had a plan.
So this month the Select Board is meeting with emergency responders and local organizations like Sterling College to review and rewrite it.
The Crafstbury Fire Department is appealing for more radio equipment, something that was in short supply in the flood zone during the storm.
And Urie says Craftsbury is now considering how a storm the size of Irene, or even bigger, would distress its infrastructure and water systems.
(Urie) "We have a dam that holds back two lakes and if that dam should let go Craftsbury village would be vulnerable. So that's been a what if situation that we have discussed - just trying to figure out how we would react to the amount of water that would flow out of those two lakes and through the village."
(Carapezza) Irene was not a ‘what if situation' for towns like Granville.
Cheryl Sargeant is chair of the Select Board. She was the point person after the small mountain town lost power and most of its roads.
She says the extent of the plan was to call Vermont Emergency Response when things got tough. With no telephone service, that was inadequate.
(Sargeant) "If we wanted to communicate with anyone we had to do it via the radio that the fire department gave me to operate at the Town Clerk's office or we had to drive and tell people what was going on to get the word out."
(Carapezza) Looking back, Sargeant says she wishes the state had better prepared cities and towns.
(Sargeant) "I think if future training is offered, they should definitely have disaster training in there and tell us what to do."
(Carapezza) But many towns, including Granville and Craftsbury, won't be waiting for future training from the state.
In the coming months, line-by-line, they'll review their plans to make them easier to carry out - and more effective - in a crisis.
For VPR News, I'm Kirk Carapezza.
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