Dover-Foxcroft husband and wife hired to tackle Piscataquis County emergency planning

The Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency has hired a husband and wife team to update a plan that helps communities prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters. Alsina and John Brenenstuhl of Dover-Foxcroft, who began their duties in January, surveyed county residents and spoke to towns about hazards and emergency planning to revise the county’s plan, called the Risk Mitigation Plan .

The Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency has hired a husband and wife team to update a plan that helps communities prevent and respond to natural and man-made disasters.

Alsina and John Brenenstuhl of Dover-Foxcroft, who began their duties in January, surveyed county residents and spoke to towns about hazards and emergency planning to revise the county’s plan, called the Risk Mitigation Plan .

The plan is crucial because it is much easier for municipalities to prepare for and prevent emergencies and disasters than to rebuild afterwards, said Jaeme Duggan, director of the county’s Emergency Management Agency. of Piscataquis. The process also aims to make communities stronger and more resilient, she said. The Brenenstuhls, who have experience as emergency personnel, worked behind the scenes to keep the process on track and involve citizens and cities.

Piscataquis County is required by federal and state emergency management agencies to update its risk mitigation plan every five years, and its current plan expires in March 2023, Duggan said.

Alsina Brenenstuhl focused primarily on the Risk Mitigation Survey, which was available to all Piscataquis County residents online and via the Piscataquis County EMA app, and closed earlier this week. The survey garnered 18 responses, she said on Monday.

“I have also spoken to many people in the county who do not have internet access and are unable to respond to the survey,” she said.

Alsina Brenenstuhl encourages residents to attend future meetings. There are more than 16,800 people in Piscataquis County, and it seems few of them are fully aware of the role of the emergency management agency and why the risk mitigation plan — or simply the creation of a plan for their family – is important, she said.

Although Alsina Brenenstuhl is still reviewing the survey results, she noted that county residents indicated they were most concerned about harsh winters, drought and wildfires. It was interesting to hear that the wildfires are worrying residents because “firefighters say it’s not serious, but citizens think it’s more serious,” Duggan said.

Alsina Brenenstuhl, who previously worked as an emergency medical technician and paramedic, also updated the data. She makes sure to include up-to-date census figures and consumer price indexes for previous storms, which show what a fire in, say, 1947 would cost today.

She and her husband moved from Pfafftown, North Carolina, to Dover-Foxcroft in 2018. Although they are both from New York, they met in North Carolina, while responding to an accident car.

Photo by Observer/Valerie Royzman
HAZARD MITIGATION PLANNERS – Alsina and John Brenenstuhl work as hazard mitigation planners at the Piscataquis County Emergency Management Agency. They are pictured in their office at the Dover-Foxcroft agency on Monday.

John Brenenstuhl has over 23 years of experience in the fire service, including as a firefighter and fire chief. He helped cope with the aftermath of tragedies such as 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina, he said.

The experiences prepared him for his work as an urban planner in Piscataquis County, he said. They shed light on how government and non-government agencies work together in emergencies — and sometimes how they run into communication gaps that block progress, he said.

John Brenenstuhl, who now works as a flight instructor with Highlands Aviation at Dexter Regional Airport, met with municipal officials in Piscataquis County to discuss their emergency operations plans, which address hazards and vulnerabilities in a community.

The plan outlines a procedure that would be used in the event of an emergency, such as a tornado, so residents could evacuate or shelter in place, he said. The plan also includes a way to relocate government and communications staff so key operations can keep running.

“Most cities don’t have one, or the ones they do have are old and outdated,” he said. “I have also set up tabletop exercises to assess the emergency operations plan that is being used.”

A grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and a BRIC — Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities — grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency are funding the positions for planners, Duggan said.

They will seek and apply for grants to help the Emergency Management Agency and municipalities in Piscataquis County. For unorganized cities and territories, grant opportunities, low-interest loans and other forms of financing can help them better prepare for emergencies, Duggan said.

Residents of Piscataquis County will have the opportunity to ask questions and comment on the risk mitigation plan this week. Meetings are scheduled from 5-8 p.m. Wednesday April 6 to Friday April 8 at Peaks House in Dover-Foxcroft. People can also attend virtually.

“These [meetings] let’s not review the plan yet,” Duggan said. “These are the very first meetings for people to find out what it’s all about and what their contribution can be.”

Once the risk mitigation plan is written, which Duggan says will be around late summer or early fall, the public will have another chance to participate. That’s when they can review the plan and suggest changes, she said.

The plan will be sent to the Maine Emergency Management Agency and eventually the Federal Emergency Management Agency, she said.

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