On Wednesday, city officials and emergency responders met at Holyoke Community College's Kittredge Center to participate in a series of drills that will prepare them for future crises.
"It's a training exercise on emergency operations...all city employees are involved...all the departments are involved...everybody is working together. So if any incidents happen in the future, we're going to know how to work as a team," said Lt. Thomas Paquin of the Holyoke Fire Department.
Wednesday's drill had a mock chemical crisis that emergency responders had to respond to, and then they had to hold a press conference to inform the public about the situation at hand.
Although several of these emergency exercises happen in Western Mass each year, this year's exercises, led by Boston University's Healthcare Emergency Management Program, were unique because more of an emphasis was placed on using social media to communicate during an emergency than ever before.
"But now with social media being what it is, we have to bring that into the equation also. So we used it during Hurricane Sandy and now we're practicing with it to really expand it using Facebook, Twitter and city accounts," said Paquin.
"It's about the citizens because one of the key points out of today is that we don't wait for something to hit to meet. We're proactive before something hits. If anything does happen we're prepared, we're all on the same page, and we know how to move forward," said Alex Morse, mayor of Holyoke.
Ultimately, the event was not just for emergency responders and city officials. Some attendees came to learn more about the power of social media, and they took away some important messages.
"I'm learning more about how important it is for emergency operations to have a good, effective social media strategy, because we're seeing it time and time again," said Ed Comeau from Belchertown.
Copyright 2012 WSHM (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.
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