Bernardston set to deploy Code Red alert system

  • Bernardston Fire Department. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 7/24/2016 10:34:35 PM

BERNARDSTON — Following storms last Monday afternoon, Bernardston Fire Chief Peter Shedd said the need for a emergency alert system has become even more important.

Shedd, who is also Bernardston’s emergency management director, said that emergency management recently assumed responsibility for the Code Red alert system, which had been managed on a regional basis and owned by Vermont Yankee.

Eventually, Shedd wants the system to allow for notifications via Twitter, Facebook, email and text messages.

“We weren’t quite ready to use our Code Red system yet, but that would have given us one more way to get in touch with people,” Shedd said in regards to last Monday’s storm.

Shedd said he has conducted a few tests of the Code Red system thus far. To be included in the alerts, residents must sign up on the Bernardston town website. Through a link on the website’s emergency management section, residents can add their contact information within five minutes.

As part of the transition from regional to local, the land line telephones of Bernardston residents and businesses have remained in the system, Shedd explained. However, Shedd recognizes that many residents no longer have land lines, and mobile telephone numbers are not included in the phone book.

Residents are also invited to add phone numbers of caregivers to the system, even if the caregiver is not a Bernardston resident.

Shedd hopes the system will revolutionize the way emergency information travels.

“Time-wise, it’s much faster to (use the Code Red system) than to go door to door passing out flyers or going around town with a P.A. system,” Shedd said, which is something Bernardston’s emergency management team has done for emergencies in the past.

“It takes several hours to do that,” Shedd continued, “and that’s on a small town.”

Shedd explained the system will allow his team to contact residents on certain streets, half the town or the whole town, depending on the situation. The system would also alert Shedd to how many residents received the emergency message and how many did not.

Additionally, Shedd could use the system to contact other department heads through one swift message in the event of an emergency. Three members of his emergency management team are currently trained to use the Code Red system, which can be activated by computer or even through a cell phone.

Were the system capable of being activated on a town-wide level during last Monday’s storm, Shedd said it could have increased residents’ awareness of the storm’s effects.

“The residents would have been notified,” he said, adding that it would allow those coming home from work or from traveling to make other plans.

“Even people coming home, they could have scheduled something,” he continued.

Assessing the damage

Last Monday’s storm had significant effects on Bernardston. According to Eversource’s outage map, 116 of the 1,100 Eversource customers in Bernardston were without power as a result of fallen trees and downed power lines.

A home at 189 South St. had a tree fall on it, Shedd said, and three roads were closed: River Street, Martindale Road and Shedd Road.

Shedd said the Fire Department was able to offer ATV rides to residents of the 43 homes on the nearly 2-mile Martindale Road and the estimated eight homes on the connected Shedd Road.

“We probably had 18 Fire Department members (working) and we also requested Northfield to come over and patrol some of the roads to make sure they were all passable,” Shedd said.

“We had people going home with groceries and no way to get home,” he continued. Some families had young children.

Shedd Road was the last to reopen at 3 a.m. Tuesday morning.

Verizon needed to send in a crew to replace a broken telephone pole on Shedd Road, and Shedd estimated seven or eight Eversource trucks were called in.

The tree warden and highway department continue to clean debris from the roadways, Shedd said, though all roads are accessible.

“All the roads are open and passable,” Shedd said. “We’re ready for the next one.”

Hopefully, though, Shedd said, emergency management will be able to use the Code Red system to reach Bernardston residents in time for the next storm.


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