Friday, April 11, 2014

Photos from Emergency Sheltering Exercise and the Best of Town and Gown

Yesterday, several students from the Isenberg School of Management  spent the late afternoon with me at the Mullins Center in Amherst where an emergency sheltering exercise was being conducted involving hundreds of volunteers, including many students (kudos to nursing and others), and multiple organizations such as UMass Amherst and the Medical Reserve Corps of Hampshire County.

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 photos that I took at this special community event that I have posted here illustrate the scope of planning involved. The setup began at 1PM with the shelter opening at 3PM to simulate a real-life sheltering response to a natural disaster. Since those who are being sheltered become a society for a time period safety and rules are important.
There were registration desks upon entry and those who had volunteered to be "victims" had tags given to them describing their injuries which were made to look quite authentic.

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.
There was also an area for exotic animals including the dragon in the above photo. An exercise area for animals was constructed outside of the Mullins Center featured in the photo below.

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 look forward to hearing from a student later today on how the overnight experience went. He had packed up a big sleeping bag with a pillow and snacks and was prepared. The Medical Reserve Corps also had, for distribution, backpacks with First Aid kits, flashlights and a formd in a folder on which one could write critical information to keep handy.

I congratulate all involved on this very important exercise which demonstrates the best of town and gown cooperation!