By Fiona Davis
Though North Shore communities are unaccustomed to the direct effects of hurricanes, emergency response teams, schools, and town agencies are always prepared, according to facilities manager Joe Lucido.
In the days leading up to the arrival of Hurricane Sandy Oct. 29, town officials began taking steps toward storm preparedness, according to Superintendent Pamela Beaudoin.
“When we hear it’s coming in, we connect with the towns and go to an emergency planning meeting,” Beaudoin said.
According to her, the key to handling a storm or other weather disaster is communication.
“It’s really just about constant communication with everybody who has eyes and ears on the ground,” Beaudoin said.
According to Lucido, new technology helps to make communication more efficient.
“We get alerts on our smart phones, which in years past we didn’t have that,” he said.
Part of the communication and preparation process during storms is deciding whether or not to cancel school based on police safety recommendations, according to Beaudoin.
“The police always want to know what our thinking is around closing schools. Sometimes they want cars and people off the roads; they don’t want people travelling, and we just have an agreement that if they put in any kinds of states of emergency or if they want us to keep people and kids off the roads, we will comply with that,” she said.
According to Beaudoin, the goal is always to have school, but safety must take precedence if conditions are not safe.
“I always worry about kids driving and walking with debris flying around and people trying to navigate,” Beaudoin said.
Including the school system in discussions about storm readiness is especially important, according to Beaudoin, because the school is an emergency shelter for families affected by a storm.
According to food service director Sheila Parisien, being ready for an emergency is essential because the town depends on the school in a crisis.
“I always order enough so that there is always enough food for an extra couple hundred people…all staff who live near the school are on call to come in and work because we become a shelter and we feed not only families that are evacuated but also the policemen, the firemen, and DPW workers who will be working around the clock,” she said.
According to Lucido, the school building must also be equipped to handle the storm.
“I make sure our generators are fueled up, that they are running properly, that we take all or trash barrels in or anything that could be flying around, and we secure all our equipment,” he said.
According to Parisien, the school has a responsibility to be prepared for the general community.
“The whole town is dependent on us potentially. You take care of your people. The people in this town are our immediate responsibilities,” she said.