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MEMA Home > Programs> Communication> News > Three Towns, One Plan: A Model Collaboration in Oxford County

Three Towns, One Plan: A Model Collaboration in Oxford County

 

April 16, 2008

 

Regionalization of government services is a popular topic for discussion, but not so easy to implement. In Oxford County, the towns of Sumner, Hartford, and Buckfield have united their emergency management programs in hopes of achieving stronger, more prepared communities.

The idea started with Tom Standard, emergency management director for the town of Sumner. “We were talking about the capabilities of Hartford, a small town, and Buckfield, which is a much larger town,” said Scott Parker, director of Oxford County Emergency Management Agency. “In an emergency situation, all of the towns will be working together anyway, so Tom thought we should figure out the relationship now instead of waiting until an incident occurs.”

Standard took the proposed consolidation of emergency management programs to the Selectmen of Sumner to earn their approval. “They thought it was a great idea,” Parker said. From there, he went to the town of Hartford and again, the board of selectmen bought in. Then Standard approached Glenn Holmes, Buckfield town manager.

“I thought it was a fantastic idea,” Holmes said. In addition to his post as town manager, Holmes also served as the town’s emergency management director. “The regionalization concept took a great burden off me,” he said.

To further the plan, Holmes helped author a grant to strengthen regional emergency response. The grant, which they were awarded in 2006, helped the communities to draft a regional emergency operation plan and develop a neighborhood partnership program. “We provided preparedness information to all of our citizens, and we held dinners with guest speakers talking about planning and preparedness,” Parker said.

The neighborhood program helped to tie communities together, street by street. “If there is a disaster, we want to know everybody on your road that will need special assistance,” Parker said. To do that, the towns created ‘road foremen’ charged with reporting on the status of their street in an emergency. “If you live on a road in rural Maine, everybody on that road knows you,” Parker said. “That was a great advantage. If there is a disaster, we know who will need our initial focus and who is out there that we can count on to help.”

The towns then came together to form a community emergency response team (CERT). This group of volunteers would be called in case of emergency to provide assistance in response, sheltering and recovery. Currently the CERT has ten members, three of which are selectmen. “One of them is on the school board, too,” said Parker. “They have really involved the folks that make things happen within their towns.”

Parker credits Standard as the catalyst for bringing stakeholders together. “He brought all these people together who were just standing on the sidelines waiting for someone to say ‘jump in the game,’” he said. Now municipal leadership, school officials, fire and rescue personnel and volunteers have come on board. “It’s definitely a success.”

This year the communities received an emergency generator through Homeland Security funding. “I said I would support that request if they continued to develop their regional emergency response program,” Parker said. “They said ‘no problem.’”

And they stuck with it. Parker said the communities are currently training the CERT on emergency shelter operations and management. Such training is particularly appropriate as one of the regional shelters for Oxford County is in Buckfield, at the local high school.

Holmes believes this step provides him great assurance. “Prior to this regionalization effort, if we had an emergency where we had to activate a shelter, we would have struggled to make that happen,” he said. “Now I feel very comfortable that with one phone call, it would be taken care of, with trained volunteers ready to take care of our citizens.”

The Sumner/Hartford/Buckfield model for unified response is quickly becoming one to replicate. “I am using that as a model to start another program in Oxford Hills right now,” Parker said. “We’ll start with an emergency management director, expand to include a couple of volunteers, and then a CERT, and a sheltering team,” he said. “It will just keep on growing.”

Uniting the towns also helps to provide round the clock response. “Almost all of our emergency management directors have other, full-time jobs and families,” Parker said. “Even though they would be able to participate and help out as much as they could, they definitely do not have 24-hour capabilities,” he said. This unified group enhances capabilities to handle 24-hour response and recovery operations.

Holmes said the triad also helps each community to keep their costs down. “Instead of all three towns buying the same equipment for their emergency management directors, we are buying one set and sharing,” he said.

He hopes his town, along with Sumner and Hartford, will work together on other projects. “We really have that ‘gel’ effect now, which will be carried forward into other projects – like road maintenance, possibly rescue and fire services, and other areas where we can coordinate and become more efficient,” he said.

—Derek Mitchell

 

Contact:

Oxford County EMA
207-743-6336

 

Last update: 07/20/10