Preparation is key to responding to weather emergency in the LMA

After days of rain and gale force winds, parts of the Longwood Medical Area are under water, cellular service is non-existent, hospitals are running on generators and supplies are at an all-time low. College dormitories have been evacuated and the MBTA is not running.

Those were just a few of the factors in play last month when more than 100 people from MASCO member institutions along with officials from city and state agencies gathered at Simmons College for the annual LMA Emergency Preparedness tabletop exercise.

“This year’s exercise focused on continuity of operations, plans and recovery strategies when our institutions faced major infrastructure damage and impacts to operations one, two and five days after a category III hurricane made landfall,” explained Tucker Husband, MASCO’s manager of security and emergency preparedness. “Bringing our community together and including city and state officials allows institutions to discuss recovery strategies and actions with their institutional team and share their key discussion points and highlighted issues during the report outs,” he added.

Over the course of the 3 hour exercise, additional information or “incidents” were tossed into the mix, such as diesel fuel shortages, lack of potable water and limited staffing.

“Sharing of plans allows institutions and agencies to become familiar with one another’s plans and how to best coordinate them in an event,” added Husband. “The final debrief helps highlight the major issues and identify gaps or vulnerabilities in plans for future collaboration and planning.”

Massachusetts State Police, Boston Police, MassDot, Eversource, BELFOR and the National Weather Service were present for the exercise and offered valuable knowledge and insight into the management of a catastrophic weather event.

The top concerns among the majority of the participating organizations were diesel fuel for generators and lack of access to fuel, downed communication systems and inability to rotate staff in and out of the hospital settings.

“The recent Emergency tabletop exercise brought together many organizations who would work together to manage a response in a real event. Responding to a hypothetical scenario helped enhance our knowledge of institutional plans and identify opportunities to improve capabilities to respond to real events,” said Ellen Berlin, director of media relations at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute.

MASCO’s Security and Emergency Preparedness Committee will hold a number of follow-up meetings to further discuss the exercise and review challenges noted, existing plans and opportunities for improvement.

Massachusetts State Police participate in the exercise. 

Utility experts and state officials confer with LMA planners.

Harvard staff discuss the hurricane scenario.