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COVID Vaccine Information Sessions

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) and the Franklin Regional Council of Governments (FRCOG) sponsored a COVID vaccine information session. The session provided potential Massachusetts Phase One vaccine recipients and providers with information regarding the vaccine/s function, efficacy, developmental history, ongoing research, possible side effects, and more. The session discussed common misconceptions of the vaccines and provided ample time for questions and answers to improve vaccine comprehension and confidence. It helped local police, fire, and public health to be better educated about the vaccine and help them be messengers to the public and their constituencies.

The session was developed and will be facilitated by Dr. Michele Keane-Moore, Senior Lecturer of The Department of Physical and Biological Sciences at Western New England University. Dr. Keane-Moore currently teaches, and has previously conducted research, in immunology and infectious disease. Dr. Keane-Moore also was a reviewer with the Food and Drug Administration’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research and is familiar with the regulatory process being used to evaluate these vaccine candidates. She has also served on Baystate Medical Center’s Institutional Review Board that oversees clinical research for over fifteen years. Dr. Keane-Moore received her doctorate in immunology and infectious disease from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.

The intended audience was people identified as vaccine recipients in Massachusetts’ Phase One vaccine distribution timeline. This Phase One timeline includes the following groups, in order:

  • Clinical and non-clinical healthcare workers doing direct and COVID-facing care
  • Long term care facilities, rest homes and assisted living facilities
  • Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services
  • Congregate care settings (including corrections and shelters)
  • Home-based healthcare workers
  • Healthcare workers doing non-COVID-facing care

Multiple virtual offerings were held. One session was recorded and is available below.


One more live, virtual session will be held on Wednesday, December 30, 2:00pm t0 3:00pm (EST)

Click here to register for Wednesday, Dec 30 at 2:00pm



Virtual Training

10am to Noon

Building Healthy Workplaces: How to promote mental health in first responder organizations training is a series designed to help first responder leadership promote positive mental wellbeing within their organizations.

This virtual training, delivered in four, 2-hour, live, virtual sessions offers deep discussion and planning leadership can follow to build healthy workplace environments. The session will be held on the following dates and times. Registration is required, please complete the form at the bottom of this page to register. 

  • Thursday, March 17, 2022 – 10:00am to noon
  • Thursday, March 24, 2022  – 10:00am to noon
  • Thursday, March 31, 2022 – 10:00am to noon
  • Thursday, April 7, 2022 – 10:00am to noon

Attendance at all four sessions is recommended as each session builds on the last. This is an interactive training and access to audio and visual capabilities are required. Complete the form below to register.

Participation in the training is prioritized for first responder leadership in Western Massachusetts. Submitted registration will be reviewed to ensure participants are in a leadership role. Complete the form below to apply. The training is free. Class size is limited, so please submit your interest soon.

The self-paced, online Introduction to Building Healthy Workplaces is a prerequisite for the virtual series. This introduction provides background and overview of common mental health topics and evidence-based information which the virtual session will explore more deeply. The introduction training is free.

Registration for this training is closed. 

American Sign Language for First Responders

Multiple Times

WRHSAC is offering American Sign Language for First Responders Training Series throughout November and December 2020.

The training is specifically designed to prepare first responders to interact with Deaf Citizens confidently and comfortably.

Sessions will be held live via Zoom. The training is interactive, fun and designed for easy learning and high retention. It includes ample one on one personalized practice with a deaf instructor.

Two versions of the training are being offered, one specifically for law enforcement and the other for Public Health, Hospital, Fire and EMS responders. Multiple sessions of each training are being held to reach a high number of responders while also keeping class size small for ample practice time for each student.

The training is free. Registration is required.

Click here to learn more and register for the training for Public Health, Hospital, Fire and EMS. 2.5 hours OEMS credits are available.

Turner Falls Fire Department, 180 Turnpike Road, Turners Falls, MA

8:00am to 4:30pm

Chainsaw operations on a normal day can be dangerous. When trees are bent, snapped, or tangled in piles of debris because of a weather incident, hazards are increased significantly. With the frequency of tornados and hurricanes affecting western Massachusetts in recent years, highway crews and firefighters are being called on more and more to clear debris from roads. Chainsaw safety skills are essential to first responder safety during debris management response.

This training series consists of two training modules: Chainsaw Skills & Safety and After the Storm.

In Chainsaw Skills & Safety, students will learn about basic safety equipment and PPE, a saw’s reactive forces, chain tooth parts, and practice felling, notching, hinging and other cutting techniques and calculations. This is a two-day, 16-hour course. Students must attend both complete days. The training is physically demanding, a morning of classroom learning on the first day, followed by field work in the afternoon and full in-field day on Day 2. Students must self assess their ability to meet these demands. This course is a pre-requisite for After the Storm training.

In After the Storm, students will build on the skills learned in the chainsaw skills & safety class. Additionally, students will learn techniques to relieve pressure commonly found in storm-damaged trees. Topics include hazards, spring poles, hangers and leaners, pulls and splits and others. This is a one-day, 8-hour training. Only students who have completed the Chainsaw Skills & Safety class are eligible. This training is physically demanding, all day in the field. Students must self-assess their ability to meet course demands.

This training is appropriate for Highway, Department of Public Works and Fire Personnel, and other first responders who may be called upon to use chainsaws in the line of duty.

The training is free. Lunch will be provided. Pandemic safety protocols will be followed. Masks are required, and social distancing will be followed.

Two separate sessions of Chainsaw Skills & Safety will be held. One session will be held on Thursday and Friday, October 15 & 16, 2020. The second session will be held on Thursday and Friday, November 5 & 6, 2020. Both sessions will be held at Turners Falls Fire Department, Turners Falls, MA. Use the form below to register and choose which session you’d like to attend. Both sessions are full. Use the form below to be placed on the waiting list.

The After the Storm session will be held on a Tuesday, November 10, 2020, again at Turners Falls Fire Department. You must have successfully completed Chainsaw Skills and Safety in order to register for this class. Click here to register for After the Storm training.

All questions can be directed to Raine Brown, Homeland Security Program Manager,, 413.774.3167 x138

The Basic Skills and Safety Session are full. Complete the form below to be placed on the waiting list.

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No Meetings in August

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council, the Training and Exercise Subcommittee, and the Western Massachusetts Regional Interoperability Committee (WMRIC) will not meet in August. The regular monthly meeting will resume in September on Tuesday, September 15, 2020. The meetings will be held virtually. Meeting access will be added to the website calendar in early September.

Online Webinar

10:00am to noon

Develop a Cyber Incident Response Plan

You are invited to a FREE workshop to develop your municipality’s Cyber Incident Response Plan. Please join the MassCyberCenter and the Western Regional Homeland Security Advisory Council for the first of two workshops on Monday, July 13 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

These workshops are funded by the Commonwealth of Massachusetts via the MassCyberCenter at MassTech Collaborative. These sessions will give you the opportunity to:

1.  Prioritize the assets you need to protect;

2.  Build a cybersecurity team;

3.  Create processes to mitigate vulnerabilities; and

4.  Raise awareness internally about the importance of cybersecurity.

This is the first of two workshops. We encourage all municipality management, information security teams, and/or first responders to join these sessions. More information on the workshops can be found here.

Click here to register.

If you have any questions, please contact


First Responders, Stress Management and Coronoavirus – During this free webinar on Thursday, April 2 at 1pm EDT, former paramedic, law enforcement trainer and resilience expert Mike Taigman will explain how stress affects first responders and provide strategies you can use to manage during the long haul of this pandemic.

You might also be interested in this article from by a firefighter who used meditation to find peace of mind.

Resources from the International Fire Association


iRest (Integrative Restoration) is a meditation practice based on the ancient tradition of Yoga Nidra and adapted to suit the conditions of modern life. When practiced regularly – a little and often – iRest enables you to meet each moment of your life with unshakable peace and wellbeing, no matter how challenging or difficult your situation. iRest was developed by Dr. Richard Miller. Based on current studies with iRest in the military, the Defense Centers of Excellence has approved iRest as a Complementary and Alternative Medicine warranting continuing research for its use in the treatment of PTSD. In addition, the U.S. Army Surgeon General has listed Yoga Nidra (based on research with iRest) as a Tier 1 approach for addressing Pain Management in Military Care. iRest has been shown to be effective in scientific trials for conditions including chronic pain, sleep problems, depression and anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

Click here to try some free guided iRest meditations.

Coronavirus Sanity Guide
In times like these, we need practical, actionable ways of coping with stress, fear, and anxiety. The meditations, podcasts, blog posts, and talks on this page will help you build resilience and find some calm amidst the chaos.
learn more

Mental Health and Psychological Considerations During COVID-19 Outbreak – from the World Health Organization. Learn more


Amherst College, Amherst, MA

8:00 am to 5:00 pm

Space has become available in the upcoming Active Threat Integrative Response Course (ATIRC) WRHSAC is hosting in January, 2020. Registration to this course was previously open by invitation only, however not all seats were filled, so the course is now open to the region.

ATIRC is a rescue task force training. It is a 24-hour performance level course taught by the National Center for Biomedical Research and Training of Louisiana State University designed to improve integration between law enforcement, fire, and emergency medical services (EMS) in active shooter events in warm zone/rescue task force operations.

The course is specifically for law enforcement and ems/fire. It consists of classroom training and field drills. This course is physically demanding. You must be able to run, bend, lift and carry. Please consider your physical ability to participate in several days of activity.

This free, three-day training will be held on Wednesday through Friday, January 8 – 10, 2020 at Amherst College, Amherst, MA. Anticipated time is 8am to 5pm.

There are approximately 11 seats available for law enforcement and 8 for ems/fire. Registration will be accepted on a first come, first serve basis. You must be able to attend all three days. Registration is required.

Food (continental breakfast & lunch) will be provided.

We hope you can join us for this unique and valuable training experience.

Actors are also needed on day 3 of the training, Friday, January 10th. If you (or someone you know) are interested in the training, but can’t attend all three days, being an actor will provide you with an interesting perspective of the training. Actors can be from any first responder discipline. To register as an actor or for more information, please click here. Civilians over the age of 18 are also allowed to be actors.

To learn more about this training view this video & photo story of WRHSAC’s previous offering of this training.

Registration is required for the training.

The class is full. Thank you for your interest.

UMass Amherst Campus, Amherst MA

8:00 am to 4:30 pm

Enhancing Response, Protecting Dignity: Disability Tips and Tools for First Responders Conference

First responders sometimes face unpredictable challenges when assisting people with disabilities. Awareness, education, and training are needed to prepare responders to meet these challenges. There are currently no national standards in place for mandated training; different states and different jurisdictions have widely varying requirements. Unfortunately, many jurisdictions that do insist on in-depth training for first responders today do so because something went terribly wrong in the past.

The Western Region Homeland Security Advisory Council (WRHSAC) has been working with planners, first responders, and direct care providers over the last year to learn about issues and gaps related to responding to people with disabilities, those who suffer from addiction, and those who have other additional assistance needs. Research, surveys, and interviews were conducted to assess the status of available training and resources for first responders, and to develop a comprehensive picture of what additional resources are needed to support first responders in the optimal care of people with disabilities.

This unique conference is the culmination of this work and will provide first responders with tools and training to enhance their work with people with disabilities.  Registration is required. 

The conference will be held on at UMass Amherst on Wednesday, December 11, 2019. It is free and food will be provided.

The morning plenary sessions are designed to raise awareness and provide new insights. 

David Whalen, founder of First Responders Disability Awareness Training – the premier training program for first responders to best serve and respond to people with disabilities, is the conference keynote speaker. David has worked in the disability field his entire career. He is passionate about ensuring first responders have the best training available to provide services to people with a disability that enhance response and protect the dignity of the individual.

WRHSAC will also introduce the Tips for First Responders web-based tool. The Tips Tool is an accessible, quick, rich in content tool enabling first responders to readily find information and tips to enhance response. Topics covered include mobility impairment, cognitive disabilities, deaf/hard of hearing, blind/visually impaired, mental illness, autism and more. The tool is accessible via smartphones, computers or download.

The Pittsfield Police Department and the Brien Center of Berkshire County will be present to speak about the Embedded Mental Health Counselor program. This exciting approach pairs law enforcement and a mental health professional in the field to more immediately and effectively address the needs of persons experiencing mental health or emotional crisis.

In the afternoon, a condensed version of the First Responder Disability Awareness Training will be provided. This training is delivered in breakout sessions specific to disciplines. The training both sensitizes and educates first responders with the intent to effectively identify, address and respond to various disabilities they will encounter in their line of duty.

An afternoon breakout session will be held for each of the following disciplines: Law Enforcement, Fire/EMS, Dispatchers, and EMDs.

Course description:

  • Law Enforcement – The ability to respond to individuals with disabilities has posed varying challenges to officers across the country and high-profile cases have exposed the need for more involved awareness and education. As the population increases and more individuals are active in the community, the need to ensure accurate and appropriate response is critical. The Recognition-Identification-Approach-Interaction-Response Model will be introduced and exemplified in select disabilities.
  • Firefighter/EMS – While recognizing each discipline has unique roles in emergency response, the combined program will address outreach, fire safety planning, disabilities defined specific to fire, rescue, and medical needs. Communication barriers, means of egress, and other challenges will be discussed in line with the Recognition-Identification-Approach-Interaction-Response Model.
  • 9-1-1 Telecommunicators/Dispatcher – Being the first to respond, the telecommunicator can initiate a positive response if educated in disability awareness and provided the proper tools and resources. The presentation will introduce the three components within this content; understanding and response to speech disabilities, awareness of how disabilities present, and interface with first responders to address a positive outcome. The Americans with Disabilities Act, general effective communication and relay services will also be presented.
  • Emergency Management Director – Including people with disabilities and access and functional needs in emergency preparedness. Considerations include ADA compliance, breakdown of lawsuits to NYC, LA, and Oakland, accessibility/universal design, FEMA identified model, national advocacy organizations, and inclusive planning and active participation.

The conference is free and food will be provided.

5 Hours of OEMS credit is approved for this training.

Registration has closed for this event.

Please direct any questions to Raine Brown ( or Rachel Mason (

Chicopee Public Safety Complex, 110 Church Street, Chicopee, MA

8:30 am to 4:30 pm

When disaster strikes, it can be a challenge to effectively mobilize, organize, and deploy resources needed to perform wide-area searches. This course is an excellent training opportunity for any jurisdiction or agency that may face such an emergency. The course content applies to a vast number of critical situations, including natural disasters or terrorist incidents.

Participants will learn practical search methods and skills to perform systematic searches over a large affected area. The training will include challenging exercises that mirror real-life scenarios. The three-day long event will conclude with an in-depth exercise that requires participants to utilize the skills gained during the course by working through an incident from start to finish in a single operational period.

The training is taught by experienced instructors from TEEX Extension Services who have actively utilized wide-area search techniques during some of the nation’s largest and most challenging operations, such as Hurricanes Katrina, Ike, Gustav, and Rita; the Space Shuttle Columbia recovery operation; and many other incidents that required the same comprehensive strategies.

The training is free and food will be provided.

Registration for this course is closed. Any questions can be directed to Raine Brown, Homeland Security Program Manager.