NERAC Discipline Spotlight: Public Works

This blog is Part 1 of an 11-part series discussing the NERAC Council’s initiatives over the last 12 years specific to each of the public safety disciplines represented on the Council.  Check back every 2-3 weeks for new posts!

The NERAC Council is composed of 15 representatives from the fire service, law enforcement, EMS, emergency management, corrections, hospitals, public works, government administration, public health, public safety communications, and transit disciplines in the Northeast region of Massachusetts. Since 2004, representatives from each of these disciplines have worked together closely to enhance the security of the region through the procurement of equipment, coordination of regional trainings and exercises, expansion of communications interoperability, and the development of specialized regional resources. Each of the 11 disciplines has a unique role during emergencies, and the result of having representatives from each discipline working together over the last 12 years has been the successful implementation of a wide variety of homeland security initiatives. Bill Hadley, the recently retired Director of the Lexington Department of Public Works, served as the public works representative on the Council from NERAC’s inception in 2004 until earlier this month. Mr. Hadley will be replaced by John Sanchez, the Director of the Burlington Department of Public Works.

The public works discipline provides critical services to the citizens of the region and public safety agencies before, during, and after emergencies.  From clearing roads of snow or debris after a storm, providing power, heat, light, and water to important facilities, and assisting with traffic control and roadway management, public works is a critical stakeholder in the emergency management and homeland security community.

To help provide public works departments with the resources they need to fulfill their responsibilities in an emergency, NERAC has established the Regional Cache Program, which allows all communities in the Northeast region to have access to critical response equipment such as light towers, large generators, programmable message boards, trash pumps, debris removal tools, and portable heaters in a quick and financially attainable manner.  This equipment has been borrowed on hundreds of occasions over the last several years to provide electricity during power outages, respond to flooding brought on by storms, and provide light during nighttime incidents, as well as for many other planned and unplanned events.  With guidance from public works professionals across the region, the system has been designed to make equipment of a size that is not financially feasible to procure and maintain by individual municipalities (10” trash pumps, 200 KW generators, etc.), and equipment that individual communities are unlikely to have in sufficient quantities for major emergencies (30+ sign boards, 20+ light towers, 3,600’ of metal barricades, etc.) available.

In an effort to help integrate public works leaders into the public safety community and enable them to communicate with law enforcement partners on a regional basis, NERAC also made portable radios available to all public works departments on two occasions (once in 2007, and again in 2013).  These radios were provided to public works departments to enable them to communicate directly with their local police, fire, EMS, and emergency management agencies, and also to give them access to the Boston Area Police Emergency Radio Network (BAPERN), which is used by the law enforcement community for regional notification of significant events.

NERAC has also sponsored a number of Hazardous Materials Awareness and ICS-100 (Incident Command System) courses specifically for public works professionals.  The hazardous materials courses have ensured that individuals who are out in the field every day will know what initial steps need to be taken should they be the first person to encounter a potentially dangerous material, and the Incident Command System courses have helped public works professionals to understand how police, fire, and EMS personnel operate and how they can integrate themselves into their existing command structures when needed during an emergency.


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