WATERBURY -- Gov. Peter Shumlin signed Vermont's updated five-year emergency plan Thursday, a document that was molded by the state's experiences in responding to and recovering from 2011's Tropical Storm Irene and a series of other disasters the state has endured since he took office almost three years ago.
One of the key lessons learned from responding to the disasters was the need for different branches of state government to work together, Shumlin said while speaking in the state emergency operations center alongside a number of officials from different agencies involved in producing the new plan.
Shumlin said the officials he met with and others took the experiences of the last three years to ask a question:
"How do we develop an emergency management plan that ensures that the next time we get hit we are ready, have thought about who's in charge, what happens when and how we get Vermont back on its feet as quickly as we possibly can while getting people out of harm's way, saving lives, saving buildings, saving property, saving roads and ensuring that we get it right," Shumlin said.
While Irene was the most well-known storm to hit Vermont in the last few years, there were a series of smaller events that affected smaller areas, but still did considerable damage, including a series of storms this past summer.
The new emergency operations plan addresses all the hazards that officials believe could be faced by Vermonters, including structure fires, natural disasters or acts of terrorism, and it includes many of the lessons learned from Irene.
The plan, among other things, outlines how the state will provide support to local governments in the event of disasters, how state agencies should work together and how state agencies should work with the private sector and other government agencies in the event of a disaster in both the U.S. and Canada.
To ensure those lessons are learned, the state is planning a series of training exercises in the coming months.
"I think we have learned like never before that our citizens depend upon their government" said Deputy Transportation Secretary Sue Minter, who served as the state's first Irene recovery officer. "They need their government to be there in the emergency phase and to be there in the recovery phase and to be prepared, prepared to get it right and to do better the next time."