, Gloucester, MA

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February 12, 2013

City's lack of shelter draws fire

Kirk defends decision; councilors cite Fuller

Gloucester did not open — or plan to open — an emergency shelter for the weekend blizzard.

But the policy was noted in advance of the storm, and was due to three factors, Leonard Campanello, the city’s police chief and emergency management director, and Mayor Carolyn Kirk said Monday.

Those were the lack of a facility with the required services — space, heat, water, and food services — the nature of the storm, and advice from the state emergency managers,

But while Kirk Monday defended the decision to not establish a shelter, two city councilors — Greg Verga and Bruce Tobey — argued that had the Fuller School been maintained it would have been a resource option of value in the blizzard.

”We ran a skeleton (Emergency Operations Center) out of Addison Gilbert Hospital,” the mayor said in an email. “In our emergency planning meeting, we determined that point-to-point transportation was going to be one of the biggest challenges for this event. Fire Stations, the DPW (Department of Public Works), Police Department and hospital would remain clear no matter what. To have to maintain an additional location like Fuller was going to strain resources too far.

“Also, due to the (state) travel ban,” Kirk said, “we ran with the strictest protocols for the EOC in that only authorized and trained personnel (Citizens Emergency Response Team volunteers) were given access, and under the condition that they had signed the city’s waiver of liability, and that they would commit to stay for the duration of the event.

”Fuller is good for a hurricane-type event but not for a blizzard of this magnitude,” the mayor added.

Rockport, which sustained heavy damage to homes and businesses on Bearskin Neck, opened an emergency shelter at Rockport High School in conjunction with the American Red Cross, and served 72 people, including about a dozen who stayed overnight Saturday to Sunday, according to the Rockport Police. But Gloucester officials indicated in their emergency preparation announcement on Friday that the city would not be opening an emergency shelter at Fuller School, which had served as a shelter in the past.

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