During his time as Cheshire Town Manager, Sean Kimball has witnessed a number of emergencies.
Whether it was a tornado that hit Cheshire in 2018, mere weeks after he had first started in the Town Manager position, or the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in March of 2020, Kimball knows what it’s like to have to handle a local response to a serious situation.
Soon, he’ll have a dedicated space in which to coordinate it all.
On Tuesday, Aug. 2, Gov. Ned Lamont visited Cheshire to announce the release of $450,000 in state funding that will be used for the creation of an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) at Cheshire Town Hall. The money was approved by the State Bonding Commission on July 26.
“With an increasing number of severe weather events happening on a regular basis, it is critical that towns have the resources they need for their local emergency management teams to quickly respond to any kind of emergency situation,” Lamont said, in a statement. “By partnering with Cheshire on the creation of a new Emergency Operations Center, the state is able to help ensure that the town has the tools they need to support their residents. I am glad that we can work with them to get this project done.”
A 600-square-foot room located in the basement of Town Hall, which is currently being used as a storage space, will be transformed into a fully-functional EOC, allowing members of the Town’s Emergency Management Team (EMT) to congregate in one setting in order to handle a crisis.
“This room is well situated (for what is needed),” said Kimball. “Having it at Town Hall works well. During certain major storm events, for instance, we have ample parking here, (Town Hall) is our redundant-data hub (for all departments), we are on generator power … we have all the necessary ingredients.”
Kimball explained that, currently, the de facto EOC is the training room at the Cheshire Police Department. However, aside from not having the necessary equipment to effectively run a town-wide response to an emergency, it also creates logistical problems during a crisis.
“We have civilian members of our (Emergency Management Team), such as me,” said Kimball. “You don’t want a number of folks getting in the way of (officers) who are responding to emergencies around town.”
Kimball had requested funding for the creation of the EOC in the 2023–2024 capital budget, but the state allocation will allow for the project to move forward immediately. In fact, Kimball stated that the Town has already begun the design phase of the project and is seeking plans from design firms.
“We are really hitting the ground running,” said Kimball. “This really moves the timeline up at least a year.”
The $450,000 will cover the installation of equipment, such as display monitors that will allow EMT members to track everything from power outages to utility company response times during an active emergency. Extensive audio and visual equipment will also be installed to allow for easy communication between those at the EOC and others who may be stationed at different spots around town.
“You may have eight members of the team around the table (at the EOC), and then others conferencing via Zoom,” he explained.
Kimball acknowledged that he hopes the room, when completed, will be used sparingly for crisis events, but that, “the room will be well-used if we need it.” However, it will not go to waste regardless.
“The room can double as a classroom,” said Kimball. “We have module tables that can be set up (in the room), and the state-of-the-art equipment can be used for other purposes (including training).”