EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

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February 9, 2013

Taking no chances

Police, fire, hospitals, utilities add staff, equipment to respond to blizzard

(Continued)

Better communications

“We have added extra patrols to handle the call volume,” Andover Police Lt. James Hashem said.

In addition, Andover has another tool to handle widespread emergency situations.

Over the last couple of years, the town has implemented an Internet-based Emergency Operations Center, or Web-EOC, which allows all departments in town to communicate with each other and respond in real-time to any problems.

“It’s like having an emergency operations center, but it’s done electronically,” he said. All departments, including police, fire, public works and plant and facilities managers can go onto a computer with Internet access and see what’s going on, who is responding, and what’s needed. “We can make real-time decisions together.”

For example, he said, if there’s a tree down on Lowell Street and it pulls down wires and knocks out power to 500 customers, everyone in town will know about it.

“The tree department would know they have to respond,” he said, while public works and police could coordinate road closures and National Grid would be notified to fix the problem.

“We can respond to emergencies as they happen,” he said.

In North Andover, Fire Chief Andrew Melnikas said he has added extra staff as well, including putting an extra engine in service, an extra EMT on the ambulance squad and a couple of firefighters in a pickup truck to barricade roads or undertake other tasks as needed.

“That way we’re not committing a fire truck,” he said. “We’ve been through this before, so we should be pretty good.”

Local utilities and state highway crews also added extra staff ahead of the storm. Down at the former Showcase Cinemas on Route 114 in Lawrence, about a dozen trucks carrying crews from Nova Scotia stood at the ready yesterday afternoon.

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