- Opportunities For
There are two main categories of disasters: natural, which are flooding, severe storms, health pandemics, etc.; and human-caused, which are chemical spills, mass killers, water main breaks, train derailments, etc.
RRPC focuses mostly on planning and mitigation with communities (though we do have a hand in recovery during larger-scale events). This means we work with communities to identify vulnerabilities and then prioritize actions to eliminate or lessen the risk. It means arming people with information and training opportunities and providing platforms for information to be shared. It means creating opportunities to test and practice emergency plans. It means being a resource for towns so that the Rutland region can be stronger and more resilient.
Every community in the country is required to have a Local Emergency Planning Committee—commonly known as an “LEPC”. LEPCs are not a response group even though responders participate. The purpose is to provide a platform for planning and preparedness across sectors. LEPCs bring together emergency responders, businesses that use, store, or transport hazardous material, health care and social service employees, and community members.
The base of the platform is regular meetings at which information is shared and discussed. Sometimes the information is from a presenter or member of the group; other times it is through mini-tabletop exercises, which spark conversation and focus actions to be taken that improve response and preparedness.
Intangible benefits include the working relationships that form when different sectors sit together at the same table. Trust and respect are built and carried over to the field when an emergency happens, working together for the common good of the community.
Other responsibilities include preparing a local emergency planning committee response plan and receiving Tier II reports, per the Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act (EPCRA) and V.S.A. 1 §32.
There are 13 LEPCs in Vermont. RRPC houses LEPC 2 for the Rutland region. LEPC 2 meets the third week of each month on Wednesday or Thursday at 6:00 p.m. from September through May. Meeting locations move around Rutland County. Check the calendar for the next meeting date and place. Agendas and minutes are available here.
The Executive Committee sets the direction of LEPC 2 and curates meeting content. They meet the fourth Tuesday of every month at noon. Agendas and minutes are available here.
Chair – Bob Schlachter, Rutland County Fire Mutual Aid
Vice Chair – Mike McLean, Poultney Fire Department
Secretary – Beth Diamond, Untied Ways of Vermont, Vermont 2-1-1
Treasurer – Mary Lamson, Rutland Regional Planning Commission
Member - Jan Sotirakis, Chittenden Emergency Management Director, and first responder
Member - Beth Winter, Rutland Regional Medical Center, Poultney first responder
Member - Don Richardson, Mount Holly first responder
Local Emergency Management Directors, EMDs, and Coordinators, EMCs, play an important role in their communities—it’s also a state law that each municipality have an Emergency Management Director or Coordinator. The role of EMD defaults to the town’s executive officer if an EMD or EMC is not appointed.
EMDs and EMCs oversee and spearhead planning and preparedness activities for their community, usually in coordination with the town manager or select board. During emergencies, EMDs and Cs are a critical link between the town and the outside world.
RRPC understands that most EMDs and Cs are volunteers with many other responsibilities and obligations. We will work with you and your community leaders to identify and prioritize actions that make sense for your town. We’ll provide you with tools, templates, and expertise along the way so that you can do a great job.
The best thing about being an EMD or EMC (other than the feel-good part about making a difference for your town) is that YOU’RE NOT ALONE! EMDs and EMCs come together from across Rutland County every other month for an EMD/C Roundtable.
Roundtables are a platform to hear and share ideas, to learn about important topics and opportunities, and to plug in with others wearing the same hat. The experience of those at the table ranges from zero to twenty-plus years. There’s always something to learn from each other!
Roundtables are held at RRPC’s office in Rutland City. Everyone is welcome to join, or to just sit in and feel it out—official EMD or EMC titles are not required. Check the bulletin board to find out when the next Roundtable is happening or email Mary to be put on the list.
The state requires each municipality to complete, adopt, and submit LEOPs annually after Town Meeting and before May 1. An electronic template is available on Vermont Emergency Management's website or by contacting RRPC. It’s important to review each section of the LEOP each year. Email addresses, phone numbers, and sites to be checked are all likely to change over time.
The first is that they are a guide and template for municipal officials during emergency situations, keeping all essential information in one place. Second, LEOPs are a conduit for town leaders to have conversations—and be on the same page—about important topics before stressful emergencies; such as secession of leadership, local shelters, and vulnerable populations. They also can be a way to capture and record institutional knowledge.
There are appendices beyond the base-LEOP that towns can opt to complete. Each appendix addresses a specific topic identified by the state as potentially valuable for municipalities. Look at the list and determine which appendices make sense for your community, then start to chip away at them.
Local Hazard Mitigation Plans, or LHMPs, are based on historical data and address vulnerable areas in a community that are likely to be impacted by natural hazards; and are a tool to identify cost-effective solutions that solve repetitive problems. LHMPs must be adopted by the municipality and approved by the state and by FEMA every five years.
LHMPs prioritize greatest risks-- agreed upon by the public and by public officials—and where to focus resources. Solutions range in complexity from replacing undersized culverts, for example, to raising critical infrastructure above the floodplain.
Having an LHMP makes towns eligible for grants such as the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Flood Mitigation Assistance, and the Pre-Disaster Mitigation Competitive Grant.
If your town sustains damage from an event it’s important to let RRPC know as soon as practicable. We send your town’s information—and info from all the other Rutland region towns— the state’s Watch Officer (or to the State’s Emergency Operations Center, if it’s activated). The state uses the information to direct resources to the areas that need it most and to determine if Vermont qualifies for a disaster declaration, which means access to federal dollars. Learn more about how much money your municipality could be reimbursed by federal and state taxpayers at Vermont's Flood Ready website.
Reports from towns give a snapshot of the scope and severity of an event from a boots-on-the-ground perspective. The state relies on Regional Planning Commissions throughout Vermont to be the voice of locals through local situation reports.
Let us know as soon as practicable if your community sustains damage from an event. Also, let us know if your town is unharmed—this is equally important as sharing your damage information. We help make sure that the information from your town gets to the Vermont Emergency Management office and to other appropriate agencies such as VTrans and the Agency of Natural Resources.
Sometimes the state will “activate” the Regional Planning Commissions if the state believes there could be a widespread impact from an event. RPCs then reach out to each town to collect local situation reports. We attempt to contact the people listed on each towns’ Local Emergency Operations Plan using a combination of VT-Alert, email, and phone.
It’s important to document everything that you can during an event. Use a computer or a notebook to record the work done during response and recovery. Record who did what, where, for how long, with what materials and why—for paid staff and for volunteers during response and recovery.
Example: “August 29, 2011: Bob Jones, resident volunteer, cut and removed fallen tree limbs on Main Street from noon to 4:00 p.m. using the town’s chainsaw to clear the right-of-way for emergency vehicles”. Save time cards and receipts. Take pictures of the damage and debris, lots of pictures! Make sure the GPS feature in the camera is turned on if it has one, or make sure to record the exact location for each picture.