01 Feb Airo Security Support: Athol Daily News – Athol to examine preparedness, emergency…
Published: 1/31/2020 9:20:40 PM
Modified: 1/31/2020 9:20:30 PM
ATHOL – Climate change and the community’s ability to adapt and respond to its negative effects will be the topic of a workshop to be held Tuesday.
Town officials and other community leaders have been invited to the all-day workshop, which will take place from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Athol Public Library. The meeting is one of the steps Athol will take toward fulfilling its responsibility under a Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Planning Grant the town recently received from the state Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs.
Tuesday’s meeting is being billed as a Community Resilience Building Workshop. It is being facilitated by Boston-based BSC Group, which according to its website specializes in engineering, planning, permitting, landscape architecture, and ecological services. The Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant is paying for BSC’s consulting services.
Information provided to those invited to the workshop climate resilience as “the ability of a system to absorb stress and functionally persist in the faces of external stresses imposed upon it by climate change, and adapt and reorganize in response to that stressor in a way that increases resilience over time.”
Attendees will attempt to identify the main hazards facing Athol due to climate change, the challenges posed by those risks, and to prioritize actions that might be taken — both short-term and long-term — to respond to them.
The ultimate goals of the planning process are to develop a hazard mitigation plan and complete the municipal vulnerability preparedness program. The hazard mitigation plan is meant to reduce the loss of life and property by reducing the impact of natural disasters, while the Municipal Vulnerability Preparedness Grant moves the community ahead in planning for the effects of climate change and implementing projects to reduce its impact. Communities completing the program receive certification that makes them eligible for future grant funding and other benefits.
“This will help us plan for responding to hazardous climate events,” said Athol Planning and Development Director Eric Smith in an interview Wednesday. “Events like flooding, extreme cold or snow and ice, extreme heat, extreme weather in general. How can we develop solutions? What steps can we take? It’s getting to be imperative that we start looking at these things now.”
One example of extreme emergencies Smith mentioned was the flooding experienced in Athol two years ago. In mid-January 2018, ice dams resulted in flooding along the Millers River. Rising waters led to the evacuation of the 28-unit Morton Meadows elderly housing complex. In addition, the Exchange Street Bridge had to be closed because its supports were being struck by ice floes.
While Tuesday’s workshop is by invitation only, Smith said there would be a public listening session later in the spring. Among those invited to send representatives were local financial institutions, Athol schools, community groups, business leaders, and many others. A number of town officials will also be in attendance.
One of those who plans to attend is Athol Health Agent Deb Vondal, who discussed her plans with the Board of Health Tuesday afternoon.
“This will be a meeting of people who know the community,” she said. “There’s also a social vulnerability aspect to it. Like with the wind storm that happened recently. A lot of people on the outer edges of town were affected, but they had generators. They were self-sufficient. They were able to get by.
“When we have power go out downtown, like with our apartment building — people living on the edge — then you’ve got your vulnerable population that doesn’t have the resources. That’s when we open up shelters. Those are the kinds of issues this program will address.”
“It’s important we involve the whole community, because the whole community is affected by climate change,” he said.
Greg Vine can be reached at [email protected]