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|Impact of Nemo|
|Written by Susanna Sheehan|
|Wednesday, 27 February 2013 09:29|
On Monday, public safety officials discussed Storm Nemo with Duxbury selectmen, saying the February blizzard was a devastating storm with costly consequences.
Fire Chief Kevin Nord presented selectmen with a slide show that reviewed the blizzard’s impact and the town’s reaction to the storm before, during and after it. He also discussed how a failed generator at the new dispatch center in the fire station led to power outages and approximately $50,000 in damages to equipment and systems in that new building.
“This was a very dangerous and costly storm,” said Nord.
Both Nord and Police Chief Matthew Clancy addressed the issue of the power loss for the Duxbury Emergency Communications Center, or D.E.C.C., that is located at the central firehouse on Tremont Street. This dispatch center was previously located at the police station and was recently moved to the fire station.
The emergency generator at the fire station failed at 1:30 a.m. Feb. 9, according to Nord. This generator had a history of problems since the town bought it in 2006 and after it failed, Nord said the company that installed it, South Shore Generator, would not come service it. So the fire department borrowed a portable generator from the water department.
This created many problems, said Nord, because the fire fighter/licensed electrician hooked it up at the wrong voltage and it fried many electrical appliances and systems such as door locks and the automatic garage doors in the building.
“We had some mechanical error and some human error,” said Nord.
The power outage did not affect the radio systems, said Nord.
Clancy said there are many redundancies built into the town’s 911 emergency dispatch system and said if the 911 system goes down it is automatically routed to Kingston. The second back up is the police station and finally to the police department’s mobile communications trailer.
“All the safeties we put in place were there and they worked,” said Clancy.
According to Allison Randall, assistant to Clancy, the emergency communications center was rerouted to the police station for a period of time during the generator failure.
Thirteen firefighters and one police officer were injured during the storm. However, there were no storm-related injuries or deaths reported among the public, according to Nord.
The fire department transported 22 people in ambulances in the first 24 hours, said Nord, and it received many calls regarding carbon monoxide filling up homes after the storm knocked out the electricity and residents switched to other heating sources to stay warm. The blizzard’s high winds downed trees that blocked off roads and struck at least 100 houses, said Nord.
Both the fire and police departments pulled their men off of Duxbury’s streets around midnight on Feb. 8 because the storm made it too dangerous to be outside, according to the chief. Nord said it was the first time his department had ever done that.
“It got ugly,” said Clancy. “There were trees and wires going down everywhere.”
Nord said NStar performed better during this storm than in the past, but there were still many problems with communications between the power company and the town as to when the electricity would be going back on. He said NStar made false promises and sent only one crew initially, which wasn’t enough. It was only when there was an NStar representative in the emergency operations center after the storm passed that Nord felt the town was well served.
Department of Public Works Director Peter Buttkus agreed: “NStar was better but the initial communication was not there,” he said. “At one time, we had no radio and no phones.”
“They need to put a representative in the EOC early on,” said Nord.
Town officials agree that Duxbury and surrounding towns like Marshfield received the brunt of the storm’s fury and even though the blizzard is a memory now, it has left lasting marks.
“We’re going to be doing massive battle with this for a long time,” said Buttkus. “It’s going to be an expensive clean-up and it’s going to take a lot of time.”