Upton’s Emergency Management Director is the resource coordinator for the Town of Upton in the event of a disaster or major incident. In 2002 the Upton Board of Selectmen, who believed that emergency management needed to take a central role in coordinating public safety during a major incident, established the Upton Office of Emergency Management. Today’s Emergency Management is much different from the “Civil Defense” many residents recall from past years. Emergency Management is focused on planning and preparing for all types of hazards including weather, hazardous materials incidents and other manmade problems.
During an actual emergency incident, the Emergency Management Director works with and is a resource for Upton’s Police, Fire, EMS, Public Health and D.P.W. Each of these departments has very talented people who work together in an emergency to protect and provide for the safety of our citizens.
The Upton Emergency Management Operations Center is located on the first floor of the Fire EMS Headquarters. An advanced communications system allows direct radio communications to the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency bunker in Framingham, the Regional Office in Agawam, area communities and all of Upton’s Emergency Services. Upton Emergency Management has access to telephone hot lines for MEMA, the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross and National Grid. Our computer systems tie directly into MEMA’s Electronic Emergency Operations Center allowing other communities to monitor what is occurring in Upton while we monitor what is occurring across the state. By using laptop computers, wireless technology and secure remote access systems, what previously had to be done in the EOC can now be done in the field.
MEMA, the Massachusetts Health and Homeland Alert Network and the National Weather Service provide 24-hour a day alerts and updates by mobile phone, text messages and email. When required, other Town officials are notified and necessary preparations are made for events. If appropriate, our residents are immediately notified by both of our Community Notifications Systems; Code Red and Channel 11.
The Emergency Management Director operates and maintains Upton’s Emergency Notification System. Upton maintains a contract with Code Red who uses hundreds of “hard line” telephone lines from one of several hardened facilities across the United States and maintains a data base of Upton resident’s telephone numbers. Unlike systems used by schools, which use voice over IP to let parents know what is for school lunch, Code Red was designed specifically for public safety. There was national attention drawn to some of these notification systems when they failed during wildfires in Florida and in California. Notification system failures also occurred around metro Boston when there was a large water main break. The systems that failed were largely the voice over IP type or the old Reverse 911 system that Upton abandoned some years ago. Communities who used Code Red had their calls get through. Several area communities in Massachusetts have switched to Code Red after these failures.
Upton’s Code Red system has the option of calling the entire town or only calling certain portions of town, such as the areas with municipal water. Custom “jobs” are created using a computer mapping system linked to Code Red. Using special launch and pass codes, Upton’s Town Officials can record a message and launch a call from anywhere using a mobile phone. The entire town is notified in 6 to 8 minutes. Upton residents can customize their notification preferences by adding mobile phone numbers and email addresses.
Since 2002 Channel 11 has been the only dedicated emergency management cable channel broadcast system in Massachusetts operated by an Emergency Manager. Upton’s system can be remotely updated 24-hours a day, 7-days a week. Channel 11 broadcasts public safety and emergency information such as severe weather or health and safety advisories specifically for Upton citizens. The Channel 11 system includes an automated severe weather notification system that, in the event of severe weather, immediately sounds an alert tone on Channel 11 followed by the National Weather Service warning for our area. By using a laptop computer, mobile hot spot, and remote access systems, advisories are immediately posted and updated on Channel 11. There are between 125 and 150 presentations broadcast on Channel 11 each year. These presentations range from water advisories to forest fire watches and winter storm warnings to tornado warnings. A library of public safety presentations created for Upton are broadcast when there are no advisories present.
Upton Emergency Management also operates two trailer mounted message boards which are often seen around Town. An onboard computer stores preprogrammed messages and allows custom messages to be displayed. These message boards were supplied to Upton Emergency Management in the form of a Central Mass Homeland Security Council Grant. Through an arrangement with Central Mass Homeland Security, Upton can request additional message boards, trailer mounted generators with light towers and traffic barricades from surrounding communities.
Upton’s Emergency Shelters are certified with the American Red Cross of Central Massachusetts. Under a written agreement, the Red Cross agrees to operate our emergency shelters. The Red Cross Shelter Evaluation Team has surveyed and approved each shelter. Our local shelter locations include the Blackstone Valley Technical High School, Nipmuc High School and the Memorial School. Which shelters open and how many are opened are based on need, what type of incident has occurred and where the incident has occurred. The American Red Cross often times opens Regional Shelters rather than shelters in every town. The Regional Shelter in Upton’s area is located in Northbridge. Upton maintains a supply of cots and blankets in the event a shelter is opened in town. There are also caches of cots, blankets and shelter supplies furnished by the Homeland Security Council located in nearby communities.
Please contact me if you have any questions regarding Upton Emergency Management at 508-529-3421 or send email.
Brian Kemp, Director