Western Massachusetts avoided some of the worst effects of Hurricane Sandy, but it is now the New England hub for federal emergency response. FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have set up shop at Westover Air Reserve Base in Chicopee, to serve heavily impacted parts of the Northeast.
FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers have divided one of Westover’s airfields in half – one side for FEMA supply trucks, and one side for generators that could supply power to a hospital or wastewater treatment plant. Robert Perreault is director of Emergency Management at Westover.
“The FEMA mission is over here, they have all of the trailers that are out here, and those have tarps, water, food, cots, those types of things… FEMA actually owns the generators, but the Army Corps. of Engineers are the engineers that will actually go down to bring generators in place with the electricians.”
Perreault says FEMA has sent out several generators and truckloads of supplies so far, primarily to southern Connecticut. He says FEMA officials are prepared to stay at Westover for at least 30 days, and could end up sending supplies to New York and New Jersey.
Massachusetts Congressman Richard Neal was briefed on the emergency response at Westover. He says responding to severe weather speaks to the “National Principle.”
“And the ‘National Principle’ says that if there’s a earthquake in California, we all respond. If there’s a forest fire in Alabama, we all respond. If there’s a hurricane in New England, we all respond. It’s part of our responsibilities to the American family.”
Neal also praised what he called President Obama’s “proactive” response to Sandy. Mr. Obama signed emergency declarations for Massachusetts and states on the eastern seaboard ahead of the storm’s landfall on Monday.