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Local Emergency Planning Committee Connects City Departments, Community; ALERTWorcester now available in 23 languages

For Immediate Release: 9/11/2019 1:01 pm

September is National Preparedness Month and the City of Worcester Division of Emergency Management is highlighting the importance of emergency preparedness by encouraging proactive planning for disasters and other types of emergencies.

“The recent damage caused by Hurricane Dorian in the Bahamas is just one example of how emergency situations can happen quickly and cause significant destruction,” said City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr. “We are certainly not immune to emergency situations here in Massachusetts as illustrated by this past summer’s tornado on Cape Cod. It’s a priority for the City of Worcester to be prepared for any kind of emergency we might face.”

In Worcester, that could mean natural disasters such as floods, hurricanes and tropical storms, severe winter weather, tornadoes, coastal storms, thunderstorms, earthquakes, lightning and extreme temperatures. The City could also face man-made disasters such as hazardous materials incidents, nuclear power plant incidents, power outages, transportation accidents, water supply problems and terrorism.

The Division of Emergency Management develops plans and procedures to ensure the highest levels of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. Emergency Management maintains a comprehensive, risk-based, multi-hazard emergency management/training program and coordinates federal, state and local resources for mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery operations.

Emergency Management also facilitates a Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), a group made up of City departments including the Worcester Police Department, Worcester Fire Department, the Division of Public Health, the Department of Public Works & Parks and the City Manager’s Office. Others involved include representatives from Worcester EMS, utility companies, private industry (extremely hazardous substance facilities), local hospitals, environmental, community and nonprofit groups and transportation officials.

The LEPC is halfway through its one year Training and Exercise Plan (TEP) which prioritizes chemical identification and crisis communications. The committee has developed this TEP in an effort to drive goal-oriented training and enhance the City’s ability to prepare for, respond to and recover from hazardous materials disasters and emergencies. The TEP is the first step towards future development of a multi-year training plan to enhance municipal, facility, environmental and transportation personnel capabilities to manage hazmat incidents.

The LEPC meetings have featured seminars and workshops centered around the TEP objectives. The next steps involve practicing learned skills by conducting tabletop and functional exercises.

New this fall, ALERTWorcester, the City’s automated emergency notification system, is now available in 23 different languages: English, Catalan, Chinese (Simplified, PRC), Chinese (Traditional, Hong Kong, S.A.R.), Chinese (Traditional, Taiwan), Danish, Dutch, Finnish, French (Canada), French (France), German, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese (Brazil), Portuguese (Portugal), Russian, Spanish (General), Spanish (Mexico), Spanish (Spain) and Swedish.

Residents are urged to sign up online at www.worcesterma.gov (bottom right) to be notified by the City of Worcester in the event of emergency situations or critical community alerts. The system delivers weather alerts and general community alerts as well as notices from the Department of Public Works & Parks such as information on parking bans, leaf collection, trash pickup delays, boil water orders and street closures.

“During a crisis or other emergency situation, communicating clear, timely messages is essential to maintain safety,” said Michael E. Shanley, acting director of Emergency Communications. “Minutes count in an emergency and overcoming a language barrier can have a huge impact in relaying information as quickly as possible.”

Alerts can be sent to cell phones, home phones or via email. Residents can choose how they want to receive notifications. Now is the time to sign up for ALERTWorcester to receive timely information on any scheduled sprayings for mosquito borne illnesses such as EEE and West Nile Virus. In addition, winter weather is only just a few months away.

Those that already have an ALERTWorcester account can simply login online and change their language preferences. For residents that called in to sign up or filled out a form must call the City’s Customer Service Center at 508-929-1300 for assistance with a change in language preference.

The City also encourages residents to sign up for Smart911, a service where users can create a personal profile which provides details that 911 dispatchers may need in order to assist them in an emergency. Users can provide information such as the number of household members, address and location information or medical information.

FEMA’s overall theme for this year’s National Preparedness Month is “Prepared, Not Scared. Be Ready for Disasters.” The four weekly themes are: Save Early for Disaster Costs, Make a Plan to Prepare for Disasters, Teach Youth to Prepare for Disasters and Get Involved in Your Community’s Preparedness.

Specific tips on how to stay informed, make an emergency plan, and take action in emergency planning are available at Ready.gov. Worcester residents are also encouraged to follow Emergency Management on Facebook and Twitter for daily emergency preparedness tips during the month of September.

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