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Local Emergency Planning Committee Keeps an Eye Out for Seniors

Jun 01, 2020 03:00PM ● By Pamela Johnson

Bellingham Deputy Fire Chief Mark Poirier

Throughout the coronavirus pandemic, members of the Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC), led by Deputy Fire Chief Mark Poirier, has been meeting remotely, initially daily but now on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, to consider and, if necessary, act on the needs of all Bellingham residents. Items often under consideration include mask use in public, social distancing, police and fire procedures, recycling center hours, re-opening plans, and whatever else may come up that is related to the COVID-19 situation. The meetings are televised on cable television.

Among those participating are Public Health Nurse Esther Martone and Senior Center Director Josie Dutil, and they shared some of their observations with COA newsletter editor Dave Dunbar recently. Josie Dutil is the director of the Bellingham Senior Center and a member of the Emergency Planning Committee. (She can be reached by email at [email protected])
What is your role in the Emergency Planning Committee's daily Zoom meetings?
My role is to update anything related to the Senior Center and our activities. If seniors in town need help that I am not able to provide, it is my opportunity to express those needs to all departments.
Looking ahead, has the EPC made changes that will last after the lockdown ends?
I am certain that there are some changes that have been made that will last once the “shelter at home” has been lifted (it was actually revised to "safe at home" on May 18), but it is impossible to know what those permanent changes would be. Perhaps it will be the plastic sneeze guards that are put in place at our welcome desk. Perhaps we will be using the ionizing disinfectant on a daily basis for the foreseeable future. Perhaps card games will be a thing of the past for fear that this virus could spread by sharing cards. Perhaps virtual programming will become a permanent part of our programming interwoven with in-person programming; there are too many unknowns with all that is taking place to truly know what will be different and what our new normal will be when we return.
What is your big take-away from participating in the meetings?
The town officials and management team have great respect and empathy for what seniors are going through.
How does this meeting and planning affect the Senior Center?
All of the planning affects the Senior Center in the sense that decisions that are made regarding town regulations can either keep seniors at home for an even longer period of time or lay the ground work for seniors to return to more normal living sooner. More normal living would include coming back to the Senior Center.
Would you like to add anything else?
In this time of uncertainty, my biggest worry continues to be for those seniors who are home alone, and possibly suffering from the long periods of isolation. We are but a phone call away and have so many people that want to help. Call the senior center at 508-966-0398.

For more information on the LEPC's efforts during the pandemic, read Ken Hamway's Municipal Spotlight "Emergency Planning Group Strives to Keep Residents Safe" in the May issue of the Bellingham Bulletin. If you no longer have your copy, it's available at our website, (click on "Archives")




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