OFFICE OF THE SELECTBOARD
Town of Halifax, Vermont
SPECIAL MEETING MINUTES
September 14, 2015
The meeting, held to receive training for the town to create alerts through the Vermont Alert system, was called to order at 6:03 PM at the Halifax Town Office. Board members in attendance were Doug Grob and Edee Edwards. Lewis Sumner attended an earlier version of the training session and was not present. Other present were Glenn Herrin (VT Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security; trainer), John LaFlamme, Andy Rice, and Ross Barnett.
Doug Grob reported that VTEL’s test of the signal at his home on Stowe Mountain Road turned out badly. He does not have enough signal at his home to get speed much higher than dial up. Edwards will share this with the broadband committee at the next meeting.
Vermont Alert Training
Starting around 6:15 pm, after most participants had arrived, Glenn Herrin led the group through the features and functionality of the Vermont Alert system, including the steps needed to take if an emergency use of the system is necessary for Halifax. The town may test the system once or twice a year.
Currently about 90 or so people in Halifax have self-signed up to receive emergency alerts. Those who sign up can decide what types of messages they want to receive, and via what methods of notification (home phone, cell phone, pager, email, e.g.). However, the emergency portion of the system would allow the town to override preferences and send the alert even to those who did not sign up (like a reverse-911 call). There are approximately 470 other landlines in the system, and about 80 additional other phone types. Some people may have more than 1 phone.
Few towns yet have permission to send a message to all mobile devices within the geospatial radius of a given cell tower. Brattleboro is in a trial for this. Considering the spotty nature of cell service in town, it’s not certain how useful this would be today, but it might catch some visitors and second home owners.
Additional ideas discussed included:
- Finding a way to remind residents and especially the harder-to-reach second homeowners about Vermont Alert
- Possibly creating a connection to post an alert on the town website (Glenn would be willing to work the town on this early trial to use the ability to post it to a portal.)
- Offering or receiving letters to/from neighboring town to allow mutual broadcast of messages. This might be especially something to consider in the Thomas Hill area, for example, where there are no roads directly connecting into Halifax, only through Guilford and Marlboro
- Edwards noted late in the meeting, when only LaFlamme and Grob were still present, that a system such as this one does not solve communication issues on its own. Decisions about when the emergency providers can and should contact the Selectboard, for example, might not change without further discussion, and they might not use this tool in any case. Having had representatives from the EMS and Fire Department at the training, and earlier having Patty Dow as the Public Information Officer, it might be advisable to follow up further if we wish to have a local, smaller list of notifications.
- LaFlamme suggested the Selectboard might want to follow up with another discussion about whether the Road Commissioner might be a useful role to add to the list of approved local users.
Hearing of Visitors
The meeting adjourned at 8:37 p.m.
Edee Edwards, Selectboard Vice Chair & Secretary Pro tem