Foxborough ‘Ready to Go’ if Sandy Hits Massachusetts
Foxborough officials met earlier this week to prepare for the potential arrival of Sandy and are encouraging residents to view the town's newly finished emergency preparedness handbook, available online.
While Hurricane Sandy was temporarily downgraded to a tropical storm Saturday, it is likely to re-intensify to a possible Nor'easter Monday, which could impact Foxborough.
Town officials are not taking any chances in their preparations for the potential storm, considering its pending arrival a very serious matter.
“Is there such a thing as overreacting when it comes to storm prep? No,” said Foxborough Board of Selectmen chair James DeVellis … “The Town Manager [Kevin Paicos] gave [the Board of Selectmen] a routine update [Thursday] and I was updated as well by Fire Chief [Roger Hatfield] first thing [Friday] morning. [Selectman] Mark Sullivan and I met with the fire chief [Friday] afternoon and he gave us updates on his work.”
The topics covered in those discussions, according to DeVellis were National Grid communication, equipment and staffing, general out reach to residents and reaction as the storm approaches. Officials also provided updates the various department heads in town and reviewed the latest information from MEMA and FEMA.
As for what residents can do to prepare for Tropical Storm Sandy, DeVellis referred to the recently finished handbook the Board of Health and Chief Hatfield put together following two major storms last year.
“We have prepared a handbook on hurricane and emergency preparedness,” DeVellis said. “The Board of Health and Fire Department worked on it following last years storm and the Board of Selectmen just reviewed and commented on it last month. I urge everyone to pick up a free copy at the Public Safety Building or go to the town website and read it online.”
DeVellis said the handbook covers everything from where to go and what to do during an emergency in town, like a major storm, as well as other important information like what to do if your food is spoiled.
“Simple and common sense things, but important,” DeVellis said.
DeVellis said a reoccurring question he has heard from residents this week is where will the emergency center be if needed? The BOS chair explained it depends on the circumstances following the storm.
“There are options depending if there are power outages or flooding in isolated areas or massive areas,” DeVellis said. “We take care of seniors in town rather than send them to regional state-run shelters that do not have the same quickness, comfort level and personal accountability as we can provide. We will use the state shelter in Attleboro if needed but we try to take care of our own first. This call will be made as a crisis arrives, but it is important to understand that the place is dependant on certain circumstances.”
DeVellis said he is confident the town is more prepared for a future storm, like Sandy, and its aftermath than it was when Tropical Storm Irene and Snowtober hit the town last year – each causing massive power outages for extended periods of time.
“We now have, at our fingertips, a much more complete 911 database with cell phones and multiple ways of reaching out to all of our residents,” DeVellis said. “We now have a National Grid liaison that is on speed dial and will be seated at our Public Safety building with sole responsibility to our residents from storm beginning to end. The police, fire, DPW, schools, senior center and selectmen as well as the vast volunteer groups that stepped up last year are much more coordinated.”
DeVellis said as of Friday morning, all of the town generators had been tested and fueled, calls to MEMA had been made, DPW has addressed the catch basins and their equipment, such as chainsaws, and their trucks are ready. An overtime schedule has also been put into place as well as emergency shelter coordination plans in case it is needed. The senior center is making well being accountability checks to the town’s seniors on the critical call lists.
“This information is provided to me by our safety personnel in a clear and precise manner now,” DeVellis said.
And if Sandy causes the town to be without power, DeVellis asks residents to check on one another.
“One simple thought that was helpful last year was check on your neighbor,” he said. “Communication during power outages by telephone is almost no longer an option in today’s digital-based society. Short of walking around the Common with a megaphone, we needed to come up with a better plan and we did. Our communication to the public is also only as a good as the communication coming into us by the utility company. A great deal of time, and rightfully so, was spent on our senior population trying to reach out to them to see if they were OK and then providing a local, safe and medically sufficient center for them.”
Hatfield added the town is properly prepared for the next storm, which could occur as early as Monday.
“We are ready to go,” Hatfield said.