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MAINE EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT AGENCY
Hartland, Maine: Working Together, Ready for Anything
April 29, 2008
In Hartland, neighbors really do help neighbors and emergency management is a community effort.
A town of less than 1,900 people, Hartland sits on the Sebasticook River in Somerset County. Its small size has become an asset in planning for emergencies.
On each street in town, the town has appointed ‘team leaders.’ These people are responsible for knowing their neighbors, their special needs, and how to best help them in an emergency. To do this, these leaders go door to door or reach out over the phone.
“We have people that need breathing apparatus and specific treatments, or people that need any other special assistance” said Town Manager Peggy Morgan, “and in an incident where we have no power, we need to know who those people are and what we can do to help them.”
Organizing Hartland into ‘teams’ was an easy feat. “At that point in time, basically everybody knew everybody,” Morgan said. “It was very easy to bring together.”
According to Morgan, it all started in 1987. “We had the flood of ’87, and of course that did a lot of damage in our community. We had to evacuate more than 60 people,” she said. “The flood didn’t do very good for us; the dam didn’t do very good for us – but our people, did very good for us.”
The flood caused section of the Great Moose Lake Dam spillway 60-feet-long and 3-feet high to wash away.
During the flood, the town came together, reacting quickly to the needs of their neighbors. “We have a closet where we store plenty of blankets and pillows,” Morgan said. “Volunteers came in and setup the town hall – which still had power and heat – turning it into a shelter.”
Morgan said that meals were brought in for everyone, and that the shelter was so perfectly run that even four diabetics, with very strict nutritional needs, stayed on their proper diets through the ordeal.
The neighborhood organizing paid off during the flood response. “As far as evacuation, and places to house our people, I was out in the field and did not have a care in the world, because I knew our citizen’s needs were taken care of,” Morgan said.
The effort started with Shirley Humphrey, a volunteer with the Hartland Fireman’s Auxiliary.
“It was easy, because for fire burn-out victims, the Auxiliary has worked with them for years,” Morgan said.
And in those cases, too – the town acts quickly. “We had a home burn on Commercial Street, leaving a family with no place to go,” Morgan said. “We went and saw a landlord just across the street – arranged for a house completely furnished for the family to live.”
The house did not come furnished. Instead, the town reached out. “We got it done completely by calling out to the general public. It took us two weeks, but eventually, that family went on to buy that house,” Morgan said.
That type of support is nothing new in Hartland. “That has been an ongoing response in the community since before I can remember,” Morgan said, “and I’ve been here 31 years.”
Morgan has served as Hartland’s town manager for nearly 29 years, and believes that a community safety net like theirs is possible anywhere.
“I think any community coming together and organizing like this is possible. I truly believe that,” she said. “It always seems like when things are at their worst, people come together. In Hartland, or Augusta, it is possible to have these team leaders.”
Morgan believes the program is an asset. “The flood of ’87 was a good example. We did very well,” she said. “We couldn’t stop the breeching of the dam, but we were able to make it safer for our people.”
Contact:Somerset County EMA
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