Some of my students are overnighting there on cots to learn from the experience and since they work as interns in emergency preparedness or have been fire fighters. We were especially interested in this well-timed major emergency preparedness exercise since I am teaching a course this semester at the Isenberg School on Humanitarian Logistics and Healthcare. Mr. Jeff Hescock, who was one of five guest lecturers in my class, and who is the Director of UMass Emergency Management and Business Continuity was one of the leaders of this fascinating sheltering exercise.
The Mullins Center is usually the venue for basketball and hockey games as well as major entertainment events and to see it transformed into a shelter that could serve as a refuge after a natural disaster, such as a tornado or winter storm (and we have had our share of these as I have written about many times on this blog and in various OpEds).
Two of my students and I, along with town officials, such as our Town Manager, John Musante, and our Fire Chief (it was great to see them both and my students were impressed), received a grand tour from an Amherst Public health official who was wonderful.
The Mullins Center had an area with cots, an area for dining, and the menu looked quite great.
Since showers are located there, it is an excellent facility for an emergency shelter and it has such a large space. There were rooms for additional medical treatment and for emotional support. We also saw an ambulance inside with a very realistic victim lying on a stretcher which added to us seeing the scale and magnitude of sheltering (and planning involved),
This emergency sheltering exercise involved not only adults but also children as well as animals and the attention to detail was truly remarkable. Children had their own area which was supplied with books, activities, and toys.
Cats were separated from dogs, who were in crates and there was an exercise area for the latter and a radio was playing for the former. We were escorted by Ms. Carol Hepburn, who is Amherst's Animal Control Officer and a legend. She used to visit our neighborhood quite often back in the day.
We spoke with a variety of the volunteers from organizations such as the Red Cross and the Medical Reserve Corps as well as the animal care individuals who came with their trucks from central MA and from the Berkshire area.
There were even dogs to assist those who needed emotional assistance and reassurance. The adorable, huge Newfoundlander came with his owner and handler from Rhode Island.
I congratulate all involved on this very important exercise which demonstrates the best of town and gown cooperation!