The Conservation Commission has set up a subcommittee to consider improving access to the Musquash Conservation Area for emergency responders.
Geographic Information Systems Manager John Vogl informed the Commission at its Oct. 27 meeting that the Town’s updated Hazard Mitigation Plan identifies as a necessary mitigation strategy the construction of fire lanes specifically targeted for the Musquash.
“It’s not a matter of turning it into a series of freeways out there, but providing access. You guys need to meet with the Fire Department and come up with a plan and a cost,” said Al Sypek, a member of the Hazard Mitigation Plan Update Committee and former fire chief. “We’re much more concerned about EMS (emergency medical services) access. There’s a very small amount of time to get to someone and provide emergency care, and in a dense forest there’s nowhere for a helicopter to land.”
In discussing the construction of emergency roads at the Update Committee’s April 30 meeting, Fire Chief Darren O’Brien said creating an access road to a central location in the Musquash would not only make it easier to treat someone having a medical emergency on one of the trails, but also help bring a wildfire under control.
Commissioners Deb Lievens, Roger Fillio and Mike Considine volunteered to serve on the subcommittee. The Commissioners will work to form the plan in conjunction with Sypek and a Fire official such as O’Brien.
The suggestion that the Town create one wide trail running through the Musquash was met with interest, but members noted the option would likely be expensive.
Vogl noted the Commission would not be held responsible for subsidizing the cost of the improvements, and that the Town would apply for Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) funds to complete the widening of trails.
The cost of the project, which is estimated at approximately $100,000, is ranked fifth of six newly identified mitigation strategies in the updated plan. The long-term project is to be completed in the next four to five years.
Other new strategies Vogl highlighted during his presentation of the updated Hazard Mitigation Plan include updating the schools’ emergency plan as the top priority, at a cost of $10,000; developing a local sheltering plan with A Londonderry Emergency Response Team (ALERT) and the Red Cross, at a cost of $10,000; developing multiple educational outreach campaigns to provide information on hazard mitigation, at a cost of $10,000; extending the public water system to residential and commercial areas, at a cost of $100,000; and working collaboratively to upgrade the Town’s radio communication systems, at a cost of $100,000.
The Southern New Hampshire Planning Commission assisted the Town with updating the Hazard Mitigation Plan, which is a requirement of FEMA for pre-disaster funding to mitigate hazardous events, and must be updated every five year.
Moving forward, the Committee will present the updated plan to the Town Council for adoption.