Emergency Preparedness


A primary function of government is to provide for the safety and welfare of citizens.  Manchester voters are generous in the support provided to our public safety operations, typically approving both operating and capital budget requests from our Police, Fire and Harbor Departments. The community is well served by the dedicated staff we have in all three areas.

Efforts are on-going to be prepared for not only the daily health and safety needs that arise but also large, impactful events that may occur.  Large weather events are happening more frequently and with greater severity as our climate changes. And while we will typically see more rain, there may be more dry spells as well increasing the risk of wildfires.

A new initiative spurred by the recent forest fires in Gloucester and Rockport has led to better planning in the event of wildfires.  Through grant funds that the City of Gloucester was able to secure, the four communities of Cape Ann have completed a new wildfire management and prevention plan.  Fire staff from all four communities participated in the creation of the plan with the guidance of a consulting firm well-versed in wildfire management. 

A new website which contains the plan along with other useful information has been created.   

The plan identifies a series of action steps that the communities can take to be able to respond more quickly and efficiently to a forest fire.  For example, making sure access points are maintained into wooded terrain is important.  Steps individual homeowners can take are also presented in the plan.  While we do not think about New England as being prone to large wildfires, a changing climate is making it more likely we could see these disasters here. 

Recently NOAA issued their forecast for this year’s hurricane season.  Due in part to the record high temperatures of ocean waters, an unusually active season is predicted.  Is this the year a hurricane reaches our shores?  Hopefully not but it behooves us all to be prepared just in case.  The destructive power of a hurricane is hard to image unless actually witnessed.  We know from the experience of others and what has happened here in the past that a significant storm will create major challenges and hardships.

To help be better prepared, public safety staff from area communities gathered on June 5th for a “table top” exercise simulating a Category 3 storm hitting the region.  Predicted impacts were drawn from a sophisticated model that the Harvard Graduate School of Design completed recently for Cape Ann.  The exercise showed the actions that should be taken leading up to the storm, during the storm, and afterward.

Helping our local public safety staff with the exercise were staff from MEMA and the National Weather Service.  Fire Chief McNeilly and Police Chief Fitzgerald have excellent working relationships with these experts.  Chief Fitzgerald attended a training course at the National Hurricane Center in Miami.  As the simulation unfolded, new situations were presented that demanded a response from staff. 

The team exercise is designed to see where we are well prepared and also to identify areas that need additional attention and more pre-planning.  An after-action report will highlight these and provide recommendations for how the communities can be better positioned to respond to the extreme demands an event of this nature will cause.

Not only must we be prepared at the community and regional level, but individuals must also be prepared.  Both MEMA and FEMA have excellent guidelines for emergency preparedness that all households should follow.  We will be promoting these resources in the weeks ahead.  Also know that shelters both locally and regionally are ready to serve if needed.  Of course, for a hurricane, the best action is to batten down everything and evacuate days before the storm is expected to hit.

Let us hope we never have to utilize the skills and action steps needed to deal with a large-scale emergency but know that preparations are in place if necessary.