Dealing with emergencies and disasters

My Favorite Web Sites - Winchester Star, 2/27/03
 by Martin Zombeck

This is one of many columns providing annotated lists of Web sites that may be of interest to the community. Each column lists sites that belong to a particular category: search engines, art, online newspapers and magazines, health and medicine, history, business and economics, etc. or sites relevant to a particular season, for example, skiing or gardening. Most sites are non-commercial. To make it easier to access the sites, each column is posted on the Town of Winchester's Web site so that the sites can be accessed and bookmarked without having enter the URL by hand.

About a week ago I received an e-mail from a concerned Winchester resident. The e-mail was also sent to several town officials. The resident wanted to know if Winchester had a plan for responding to a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. The resident was obviously motivated by the Government's raising of the Homeland Security Advisory System threat level to High Condition (Orange) on February 7. Within an hour, Chief Nash, Director of Winchester Emergency Management, responded via an e-mail that the "Town of Winchester has a comprehensive emergency management plan, as well as a highly skilled emergency management team in place . and that a copy of Winchester's Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is available at the Winchester Public Library for public inspection." The document, about 2 inches thick, is in the Reference Room. This plan deals with the management of specific hazards/emergencies/disasters that affect, or could affect Winchester at some time. These are civil disturbance (rioting), earthquake, flooding, hurricane, dam failure, radiological plume pathway, terrorism, tornado, weapons-related incident, winter storm, and hazardous material (Hazmat). Carolyn Ward, Town Clerk, also forwarded me a copy of a document prepared by Chief Nash titled "Personal Safety Tips During Time of Heightened National Alert". This document is on the Winchester Web site at This document contains several links to state and federal Web sites dealing with terrorism and emergency management in general.

The exchange of e-mails prompted me to write this column. I have included below several Web sites that will provide you with information about how to prepare or respond to emergencies, either natural or man-made.

Winchester Emergency Management
A very brief summary of Winchester's emergency management and links to Web sites and U.S. government emergency guides.

Winchester's Board of Health
Public health emergency preparedness and response, links to the Massachusetts Department of Health, the Red Cross, CDC (Centers for Disease Prevention and Control), and others.

Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.

Federal Emergency Management Agency - an independent agency reporting to the President and tasked with responding to, planning for, recovering from and mitigating against disaster.

Department of Homeland Security
The new department's first priority is to protect the nation against further terrorist attacks. Component agencies will analyze threats and intelligence, guard our borders and airports, protect our critical infrastructure, and coordinate the response of our nation for future emergencies.
The Department of Homeland Security's new terrorism preparedness Web site. It's heavy on duct tape but contains some useful tips.

Previous columns with live links can be found at

When he is not updating the Town of Winchester Web site (, Martin Zombeck can be found at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, where he is a physicist, or at the tennis courts in Winchester.