Fire Chief Kevin McAllister answers questions about emergency preparedness from concerned citizens
By JEFF EPSTEIN
WINDSOR, Vt. — Windsor has an emergency operations plan in place, and in a disaster the town can call on several resources around the region as well as state government if it needs to do so. That’s one of the main messages that Fire Chief Kevin McAllister delivered to an audience of around a dozen folks in the Windsor Welcome Center Thursday night.
McAllister, who has been on the fire department since 2004 and chief for about three years, is also the town’s emergency management director. He was cited as Vermont’s Emergency Management Director of the Year in 2017, after his service the previous year in Vigilant Guard, an emergency drill run by the state.
A similar drill is planned for later this year, he said, hosted by Windsor.
McAllister made the presentation in order to answer questions from concerned citizens about preparing for and handling an emergency in town, especially if their own home is involved.
The town does have an emergency operations center, complete with dispatch facility, it can stand up if necessary, he said. Essentially, he would run the town response in conjunction with Town Manager Tom Marsh.
The emergency operations center would sign on to a state network called “D-Land (Disaster land)” and the state emergency operations center (EOC) would manage requests from whatever municipalities need support.
An emergency can be anything, but in this area flooding is the main concern. Indeed, as McAllister spoke on a day filled with ice and water worries around the state, he kept an ear to his radio in case of need. There had been flooding during the day near Brattleboro.
However, the Connecticut River near Windsor yesterday evening was not a source of concern, he said, and local tributaries were in good shape, although they could have been impacted by any ice dams further upstream.
The public water supply is not very vulnerable to flooding, as the wells are located higher than the river, on the west shore of Lake Runnymeade, he said. The town has other water resources as well.
Vermont municipalities are not required to have emergency shelters, but Windsor has one. If the town needed a shelter, it could open one in the old recreation center. It’s outfitted with 300 cots and an emergency generator, McAllister said. Any overflow would have to go to other towns. Although some towns in other places use schools as shelters, “you can't really shut down the school and keep people contained,” he said.
Mt. Ascutney Hospital and Health Center is also well equipped with propane generators and emergency supplies.
Windsor does not have a winter warming shelter, McAllister said. However, enough concern exists that he is researching it. Such a shelter has to be open all winter and needs about 80 volunteers, he said, so it could not be created lightly.
A variety of resources are available to residents as well, and not just for emergencies, he said. Most are available through “-11” shortcut numbers:
2-1-1 is a number to reach a variety of social services, for anything from crisis service to transportation, drug and alcohol programs, and more.
3-1-1 is the non-emergency number for police, fire, and municipal support. It is usually answered by the dispatch service in Hartford, or by the Vermont State Police.
5-1-1 provides travel and traffic information.
6-1-1 is who you call for telephone repair service (for most carriers).
7-1-1 may help if you need to route a phone call through a company other than your regular carrier.
Finally, in the event of a serious life-threatening emergency, the number to call for help is 9-1-1.
McAllister encouraged residents to sign up for VT-Alert, the state’s emergency notification service that can be customized for geography and type of notification. In addition, persons can sign up for emergency service with many local civic and social groups, he said.