Down in the conference room of Suffield Town Hall Tuesday morning, emergency management teams weathered floods and fires. The devastation was merely imaginary, though, as the town responded to scenarios sent in during the State Emergency Drill.
The four-day statewide emergency preparedness drill began on Saturday and was designed to simulate a Category 3 hurricane. It involved state and local officials, utility companies, and the private sector planning and preparing for the possibility of future emergencies.
"Last fall we did it for real," said Don Miner, Suffield Emergency Services. "A lot of the stuff we are doing now (in the exercise) we figured it out last fall."
The state used the hurricane of 1938 as a template, First Selectman Ed McAnany explained Tuesday. The state sent scenario changes and damage updates to the towns via email and phone calls. As the team learned of downed lines, shelter destruction and flooding they worked together to find solutions and log them for future use.
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"We have a blueprint now," Suffield Fire Chief Mike Thibedeau said. "We can pick (a plan) out of the playboook."
More than 165 participating municipalities and tribal nations activated their Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) and convened their local Unified Commands. Municipalities will receive a $1,200 stipend for participation.
The drill was a huge test for the "Make Safe" road, shelter and power protocols developed after the past few large storms. During the coming weeks, the state Division of Emergency Management and Homeland Security will conduct a full after-action review of the exercise with all those involved to identify strengths and areas for improvement.
“The double-barreled storms that devastated our state last summer and fall made it clear that we needed a better blueprint for coordinating a timely, effective response between all of those involved,” Lt. Governor Nancy Wyman said this week. “While we still may have work to do, this exercise is a significant step forward toward our goal of making Connecticut’s infrastructure and preparation second to none.”
According to the state, participants in the exercise included the relevant state agencies; the state’s municipalities and tribal nations; utility companies (CL&P, United Illuminating, AT&T, Comcast, Cablevision, Sprint, Verizon, T-Mobile, Charter, Cox and MetroCast); the Federal Emergency Management Agency; the Red Cross; United Way 211; and representatives of the private sector.