Marion puts storm plans to the test

Jun 3, 2022

MARION —Town officials recently put their emergency response plans to the test with the help of Massachusetts Maritime Academy cadets, Town Administrator James McGrail and Emergency Management Director and Police Chief Richard Nighelli reported.

On May 23, Massachusetts Maritime Academy undergraduate Emergency Management cadets Andrew Miller, Liam Brennan and Stephen Serbst visited the Marion Police Department and facilitated a tabletop exercise with participants from the police and fire departments, Department of Public Works, Council on Aging, Public Information, Board of Health, Sippican Elementary School and Community Emergency Response Team.

As part of their emergency management capstone project, the cadets created an emergency scenario for the exercise, as well as multiple evolutions and objectives for the participants. As the facilitators, the cadets then presented the scenario and updates as well as ensured participants’ discussions focused on the objectives of the exercise and that all presented issues were addressed and explored.

Marion officials were given “Winter Storm George” as their emergency scenario and were tasked with responding to the real-world situation based on current town plans, policies and procedures.

The scenario evolved through three modules.

Module one focused on the incoming storm and preliminary forecast, the possible resulting conditions such as power outages and storm surges, and needed preparations.

Module two added new and evolving circumstances such as high wind gusts and quickly accumulating snow, a vehicle crash with leaking fuel, power outages and phone problems, impassable roadways, a structure fire, carbon monoxide emergencies, and downed live wires and trees throughout town.

Module three focused on the aftermath when the inclement weather had passed, but issues remained, including blocked roadways preventing emergency access to facilities and ongoing power outages. 

During each module, participants were asked to consider the current priority of their agency, sheltering operations and logistics, staffing and agency resources, public works services and resources, communications with the public and challenges. 

Overall, the exercise was meant to help town officials put emergency response plans to the test to evaluate their effectiveness and identify possible areas for improvement. 

“Tabletop exercises are a valuable way for us to implement and assess our emergency response plans to ensure we have the most effective and efficient policies and procedures that will allow for the best possible outcome in a range of emergency scenarios,” Nighelli said. “Andrew, Liam and Stephen did a great job facilitating the exercise, and presented us with a very realistic situation that introduced the types of events we would be likely to face during such an emergency.”

“Exercises bring together various departments and stakeholders within a town to test emergency plans, policies, procedures and capabilities. These events help ensure all areas of the town are prepared for and able to respond to a disaster,” said Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) Acting Director Dawn Brantley. “MEMA appreciated the opportunity to participate in and support the Town of Marion’s exercise, and we applaud them for their ongoing commitment to emergency preparedness.”