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MAPC Leads Emergency Preparedness Exercise for Cape Ann Region

MAPC Leads Emergency Preparedness Exercise for Cape Ann Region

Written by Jenifer Wallitsch, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator

Pictured: The Amaral-Bailey Post 113 American Legion in Manchester-by-the-Sea, where the exercise was held

June 24, 2024 - The Municipal Collaboration Department’s Emergency Preparedness team facilitated a regional tabletop exercise earlier this month that brought together five communities in the Cape Ann region to work collaboratively and identify potential areas for regional shelter plan development and growth. Manchester-by-the-Sea, Essex, Gloucester, Rockport, and Ipswich participated in the exercise, each bringing a variety of staff with them.

A photo of the MAPC Emergency Management team. Pictured from left to right: Elizabeth Robert, Emergency Preparedness Manager; Jenifer Wallitsch, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Dan Witts, Emergency Preparedness Specialist; and Lauren Sacks, Program Specialist
The MAPC Emergency Management team. Pictured from left to right: Elizabeth Robert, Emergency Preparedness Manager; Jenifer Wallitsch, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator; Dan Witts, Emergency Preparedness Specialist; and Lauren Sacks, Program Specialist

Eighty-six municipal stakeholders, including emergency management directors, town administrators, fire chiefs, police chiefs, selectboard members, health directors, Department of Public Works employees, and representatives from other disciplines were in attendance. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency, Cape Ann Transportation Authority, National Weather Service, Fox25 News, and the regional 911 center also sent representatives who attended as subject matter experts for the tabletop.

Participants were presented with a Category Three hurricane scenario that was expected to make landfall over Cape Ann. According to the National Weather Service, Category Three hurricanes can cause “devastating damage” and are characterized as having wind speeds between 111 -and 129 miles per hour, snapping and uprooting trees, blocking numerous roads, and causing electricity and water to be unavailable for several days to weeks after the storm passes.

Some of the objectives of the exercise included evaluating the regions’ ability to establish preparedness, response, and recovery plans and protocols 72 hours prior to the storm’s landfall, during landfall, and 72 hours after. Each community evaluated their ability to operationalize shelter plans during a worst-case scenario hurricane and identify critical infrastructure and vulnerable populations during the preparedness, response, and recovery phases.

Each municipality’s individual response to such an event, along with the regional response to the scenario, were recorded, and the MAPC Emergency Preparedness team created a list of recommended areas that the municipalities can improve upon to ensure a coordinated regional response to a similar real-world event. The exercise demonstrated that the Cape Ann communities have developed strong, established relationships within their municipalities, as well as across the region. Involving regional and inter-departmental partners in the planning process allows for a baseline understanding of policies and procedures during an emergency; this level of understanding is critical during real-world events or incidents.

Cape Ann communities remain unwavering in their efforts to plan for future events and incidents, and it is through these regional and inter-departmental relationships that planning for a worse-case scenario is possible.

If you are interested in holding a similar event in your municipality or have other emergency preparedness projects you would like assistance with, reach out to Beth Robert, Emergency Preparedness Manager at erobert@mapc.org