Buzzards Bay Marine Task Force aims to collectively keep area waters safe

May 15, 2014

Emergency officials from several municipalities from within the Buzzards Bay watershed were on hand at Wareham Fire Station 2 Thursday morning to sign a charter that officially puts the newly formed Buzzards Bay Marine Task Force into action.

The signing of the charter is the culmination of efforts of emergency personnel from departments from Falmouth to Westport, including members of the United States Coast Guard and the Massachusetts Environmental Police, to form a group that together will help each other train for and respond to emergencies on the water.

“This is a really efficient way to make sure the best assets are responding,” said Coast Guard Lt. Bryan Swintek of Sector Southeastern New England (stationed in Woods Hole), who said the Coast Guard’s primary role is to help organize group. “Everybody’s putting their egos at the door and seeing what we can best do to serve Buzzards Bay this season.”

Boatswain's Mate Senior Chief Petty Officer Justin Longval of the Coast Guard said the task force was initially driven into formulation by members of the New Bedford Fire Department, the Fairhaven Harbormaster’s Department, and the Wareham Fire Department.

New Bedford Fire Chief Michael Gomes, who was also instrumental in helping to form the group, said they’ve recently been testing an instant messenger notification method to be utilized by the whole task force in efforts to keep the lines of communication as open and as far-ranging as possible.

The method has been utilized with the New Bedford Fire Department for some time and is gaining popularity nation-wide. At the meeting Thursday, representatives from each department present who had not yet signed up for the system were registered into it.

“We want to make it muscle memory to initiate the task force,” said Gomes, adding that the entire group is a cooperative effort and in no way ruled by a particular town or department. “Nobody owns the group. The group is only as strong as its members.”

Swintek said that not only is the group devoted to search and rescue on the water in Buzzards Bay, but also to help regulate pollution as well.

With the busy marine season to be expected not only in Buzzards Bay but particularly in Wareham for the town’s Summer of Celebration with several events on the horizon, the task for is seen as a way for emergency officials from Bourne, Dartmouth, Fairhaven, Falmouth, Marion, Mattapoisett, New Bedford, Onset, Wareham and Westport to cooperatively plan for and respond to any potential incidents on the water.

Swintek said the group also assures that the Coast Guard is notified of any incidents marine-related, as they are in charge of overseeing anything that occurs on-water.

“As long as we can meet frequently and talk to each other, we can deconflict potential problems,” added Swintek, who noted that word had reverberated to both Cape Cod and Narragansett Bay emergency officials about the Buzzards Bay Marine Task Force and that they were looking into doing something similar after hearing of the group. “This is the starting point, not the finish line.”