PARIS – He may be barnstorming the state, but he’s looking to save lives rather than get votes.

Robert McAleer, director of the Maine Emergency Management Agency, visited Oxford County on Thursday. McAleer is visiting each of the state’s 16 counties to check their capabilities on a local, county, and state level, according to Scott Parker, director of the Oxford County Emergency Management Agency

Maine’s most recent large-scale disasters have all been natural. An ice storm struck the state in 1998, and severe flooding affected the county in the spring of 2005. Oxford County EMA sent support to York County in September to assist with a flooding emergency.

Parker says the flood season is approaching, though the lack of heavy ice, rain, or snow should lessen its threat.

McAleer and Parker met in the county EMA offices for a private discussion. Parker says the topics included the organization’s capabilities to respond to a disaster, as well as the county’s upcoming full-scale exercise to test the units in a mock disaster.

Following the discussion, Parker accompanied McAleer on a tour of four of the EMA’s response vehicles, three of which are located in trailers. The vehicles had been consolidated in the Paris Fire Department.

One of the trailers, for use by the County Emergency Response Team and the Amateur Radio Emergency Service, is garaged at the Paris Fire Department. Two other vehicles were brought in from the Northern Oxford Regional Ambulance Service in Mexico. The last vehicle, the DECON Strike Force trailer, is usually housed at the Oxford Fire Department.

The DSF trailer is part of the Oxford County Decontamination Team, which acts in conjunction with hazardous materials responders. It has 30 members based in Norway, Paris, and Oxford who are alerted to any emergency by the Regional Communications Center. When 10 to 15 members have responded to the call, they deploy to the scene of the incident with the trailer.

The team is trained and certified in decontamination procedures, and the trailer contains necessary supplies such as protective suits.

The CERT/ARES trailer contains several ham radio sets that can connect to various frequencies. Two-way radios are the EMA’s primary form of communications, but the trailer acts as a backup. Due to their limited number, the county emergency plan allocates them to communication with county and state emergency operating centers, hospitals, and mass care shelters.

The trailer has made appearances at ham radio conventions, and Parker says this is part of a promotional effort to get people involved in CERT.

“It’s coming together by bits and pieces, and there’s a lot more we want to do with it yet,” said Norman C. Clanton, who demonstrated the trailer’s capabilities.

“It’s a communications resource that I can focus at key locations during an incident,” said Parker of the trailer. All of the radio operators are CERT trained, which means they can assist with disaster efforts if the radios are not needed.

Also present was the Mass Casualty Incident trailer. Oxford County’s limited emergency medical services limits a mass casualty incident to five victims or more, but the MCI trailer is capable of setting up a triage point to care for 50 victims. It is used whenever an incident exceeds the capabilities of local responders, and is prepositioned at events expected to have 5,000 or more people.

“That’s tremendous,” said McAleer, praising the MCI trailer’s ability to set up a triage rather than focus on limited treatment while waiting for evacuation of victims.

The trailer has been put on display at the Fryeburg State Fair, but has yet to be tested in the mock disaster simulating an emergency at the same location.

Parker finished the tour of the vehicles with the Incident Management Assistance Team vehicle, a modified SUV that operates as a command and control center at disasters. It is deployed to incidents requiring major coordination efforts, or if requested by the Oxford County EMA.

The IMAT vehicle has several communications facilities, including satellite phone, Internet, and radio, as well as disaster resources, maps, and medical supplies.

Parker praised McAleer’s efforts to better know the county agencies.

“I think it’s nice that he’s taking the initiative to see what we have and what we can do,” he said.

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