2012-08-10 / In the Know

Working to make the town StormReady

By B. Michael Thurlow
Special contributor

The Scarborough Emergency Management Agency is working with municipal departments and school officials on a new initiative to have Scarborough designated as a StormReady community through the National Weather Service.

The project is an outcrop of the community-wide resiliency project that we’ve been working on for the past two years. If a community is going to be resilient, it needs to be prepared, and significant weather events are one of the primary threats that we need to be prepared for.

The weather service developed the nationwide StormReady program to help communities better protect citizens during severe weather from tornadoes to tsunamis.

The program encourages communities to take a proactive approach to improving local hazardous weather operations by providing emergency managers with clear-cut guidelines on how to improve its hazardous weather operations.

John Jensenius, the warning coordination meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Gray that covers southern Maine and part of New Hampshire, has been working with us to provide public outreach as part of our resiliency program.

As we talked about how to move the program forward he suggested we consider becoming a certified StormReady community since Scarborough already met most of the criteria for designation.

To become a StormReady certified community, we must meet five requirements. First, we must establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center. Fortunately, our public safety dispatch center already meets that requirement as it is staffed 24/7 and is adjacent to our emergency operations center.

The warning point must have the ability to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public. Once again, we have redundant systems in place to receive warnings ranging from telephone, radio (including NOAA weather radio), Internet and the public safety teletype system.

We need to have a system that monitors weather conditions locally. The public safety dispatch center has had this capability for some time, but it was recently updated with new, more advanced equipment.

The community needs to promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars and other public outreach methods.

This article is part of that effort and we have also held classes on lightning and severe storm awareness. Jensenius is currently working with Nancy Crowell, Scarborough’s librarian, to create a series of video presentations on a variety of weather safety topics that can be played on our public cable TV channel at various times throughout the year.

Finally, the town must develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises. I am currently working to update the town’s emergency operations plan to contain this information. We will offer storm spotter training at some point in the future and are constantly training and conducting exercises.

Citizens interested in becoming a weather spotter can drop me a note or give me a call so I can add you to a list for specialized training.

As you can see, there is a lot to do to become recognized as a StormReady community. That is why when Scarborough completes this process, we will be the only community in the Gray, National Weather Service office district that is officially certified.

This is just another example of the work your community leaders are doing to keep the residents and visitors to Scarborough safe, prepared and resilient.

Anyone with questions about this article or any fire department issue, please contact Chief Thurlow at mthurl@ci. scarborough.me.us or call 730-4201.

B. Michael Thurlow is fire chief for Scarborough.

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