If you have an emergency
and you require the help of the police, fire department, or an ambulance, stop reading this website and dial 911.
Small towns like Hawley ALWAYS need volunteers for the Fire Department!
The Hawley Volunteer Fire Department is Hawley’s primary public safety agency. It handles handling everything from fires to car accidents to medical emergencies. As call-volunteers, members are only required to respond to incidents for which they are available. You can keep your normal work and family schedule while also making a difference for your community and being part of a special group of brothers and sisters. Members are paid hourly for calls to which they respond. To learn how to volunteer, view this flyer.
Medical Emergencies and the EMS System
If you or someone else is having a life-threatening medical emergency, dial 911 immediately.
EMS stands for Emergency Medical Services. It refers to a system of emergency medical dispatchers, first responders, EMTs, paramedics, ambulances, air medical transport, and other resources that respond to and treat patients in the pre-hospital setting and transport these patients to definitive care at appropriate medical facilities.
When you call 911 during a medical emergency, a trained dispatcher answers the phone and initiates the process by which the EMS system is activated. The dispatcher asks important questions and obtains information necessary to summon appropriate resource—and occasionally to give the caller potentially lifesaving instructions.
For any medical emergency in Hawley, the dispatch center is Shelburne Control, run out of the State Police Barracks in Shelburne Falls. The dedicated dispatchers at Shelburne Control also direct local fire and law-enforcement resources throughout western Franklin County 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
After taking down basic information, the Dispatcher will alert the Hawley Fire Department (Hawley’s front-line EMS responders) via radio and telephone systems. Volunteer firefighters/first responders and Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs) will then respond to the scene of the incident. These individuals, as volunteers, will often respond in plain clothes and in personal vehicles (sometimes with red lights and sirens). Even so, have no doubt: they are well trained and equipped and are there to help.
At the same time, the dispatcher will put an ambulance in route to the incident to provide a higher level of care and, if appropriate, transport the patient to the hospital. Hawley’s primary ambulance provider is Adams Ambulance Service, based in Adams, Massachusetts, and serving the Towns of Adams, Cheshire, Savoy, and Hawley. However, there are a number of other ambulance services available that will respond on a mutual-aid basis if Adams units are engaged on other calls. These include ambulances based in Charlemont, Shelburne Falls, Colrain, Greenfield, North Adams, and Goshen. There are two types of ambulance. Basic Life Support (BLS) units are staffed by Emergency Medical Technicians (EMTs), whereas Advanced Life Support (ALS) units are staffed by Advanced EMTs (AEMTs) and Paramedics and can provided additional interventions and a higher level of care. Adams Ambulance is an ALS level service. When Adams is unavailable, the level of care Dispatch sends will depend on the nature of the emergency. For example, a call involving cardiac issues will almost always warrant an ALS-level response.
What to do During a Medical Emergency
If you are, or a loved one is, suffering a medical emergency, take the following steps.
Keep calm. This is a very stressful time, but panic will make things worse and make you less effective.
Call 911 or direct someone else to immediately, if able. Calmly explain the emergency to the dispatcher, answer any questions they have, and alert them to any relevant special circumstances. (For example: the patient has a cardiac history and has already taken an aspirin OR the patient is very heavy and will require extra manpower to move.) Alert the dispatcher if anyone in the household has an infectious disease. Follow instructions provided by the dispatcher.
Take measures to mitigate the situation to the extent of your ability and training. In some cases, for instance, if someone is suffering a massive hemorrhage or you are outside with no cell service, you may need to take urgent measures to stabilize yourself or the patient even before calling 911. Administer or assist the patient with administering any medications the patient has that are appropriate for the situation (such as an Epi-pen for someone having an allergic reaction).
Try to keep the patient calm and comfortable.
Prepare for the arrival of EMS personnel. If the pathway to the patient’s location is obstructed, try to clear it prior to the arrival of EMS personnel. If possible, obtain the patient’s medical history and medication list and provide it to first responders. If you are trained and equipped to do so and not occupied with more pressing safety tasks, take a set of vitals on your patient, including pulse, blood pressure, respiration rate, etc.
When EMS personnel arrive, fill them in on the situation and let them do their jobs, but also be prepared to assist them to the extent requested. For example, you might be asked to help clear an area, help move a patient, or provide relevant information.
Preparing for a Medical Emergency
Keep an up-to-date File of Life Form for yourself and all members of your household, including a list of all medical conditions, allergies, and medications. Also include contact information for a trusted family member or friend as well as your health-care proxy, if you have one. This should be in an easily accessible place. The best practice is to affix it to the refrigerator with a magnet, as this is the first place responders will look.
Consider speaking with your doctor about writing out advanced directives, such as a Medical Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (MOLST) form. This explains your wishes concerning medical interventions and resuscitation efforts in the event you are incapacitated or unable to communicate. The original of the MOLST form should also be placed in a conspicuous location such as your refrigerator. Responders can only act on a properly witnessed original. To obtain a MOLST form, visit this website.
Make sure routes of ingress and egress to your house are clear and unobstructed. Ask yourself this: “Can two EMTs easily round that corner with me on a stretcher or stair chair?”
If you suffer from a serious medical condition, consider getting a medical alert device to wear on your person.
Sign up for CPR and first-aid training and keep a basic first aid kit on hand stocked with supplies consistent with your level of training.
How to Prepare for a Natural (or an Unnatural) Disaster
Hawley is no stranger to disasters of various kinds. From the flood of 1938 to the 2008 ice storm to blizzards to Tropical Storm Irene, we Hawleyites know that we need to be prepared for extreme weather and the accompanying disruptions of power, phone service, and travel that occur far more frequently than we would necessarily like. Recent events in Europe and the continued threat of terrorism also remind us that we cannot ignore the continuing risks associated with man-made disasters.
While we can never be 100 percent prepared for everything, here are some steps you can take to increase your safety, that of your family, and the preparedness of this community as a whole.
Know the vulnerabilities of the area in which you live and account for those. If you live right next to a river or brook, flooding is obviously going to be a bigger concern than if you live on a hilltop. If you have brush up close to your house, you are at greater risk for a wildfire turning into a structure fire, and may want to clear that brush away. Use common sense.
Have a generator and keep it in good working order, especially if you rely on electricity to run your water or heat your house. Make sure a licensed electrician installs an appropriate generator hookup. Hooking a generator into your home’s electrical system without the proper switches can result in back-flushing electricity into the power lines, jeopardizing utility crews and possibly destroying your generator.
Consider KEEPING your landline. Conventional cooper landlines carry their own electrical power and often function even when the electricity goes out. However, you will need an old-school corded phone to benefit from this.
Try to keep 14 days’ worth of food, needed medications, and other essential supplies on hand. We realize not everyone can do this; if you can’t, keep as much as possible. Many disaster situations can impede travel for days or even longer. Even if you have a gravity fed spring, it is still wise to have some bottled water on hand, in case there is a risk of contaminated water.
Have a “go bag” that that you can grab immediately in the event an evacuation becomes necessary. Some suggested contents are a change of clothing, a flashlight, toiletries, local maps, a first-aid kid, a battery operated radio, a vehicle cell phone charger, some snacks and bottled water, copies of important documents, and any necessary medications,. It is also a good idea to keep some cash on hand since in many disasters lines of communication (and thus the ability to use credit and debit cards) can be compromised.
Keep your car fueled (or charged in the case of electric vehicles) and your cell phone charged. You don’t want to be worrying about needing to get gas or charge your phone when an evacuation becomes necessary or the power goes out.
Have flashlights and candles on hand. Remember, however, that candles must be watched at all times and should be secured on nonflammable surfaces. Oil lamps are brighter but create additional fire risks.
Have a battery-operated or hand-cranked radio capable of receiving AM/FM and weather bands. During disaster situations, radio tends to be the most resilient mode of distributing public-service announcements and information. and many radio stations have backup generators and communications systems that can function even when the phone network and Internet fail. Know your EAS (Emergency Alert System) radio stations. In this area, such information is provided, among other places, on FM 95.3, 98.3, and 100.1 and AM 640 and 1240. To conserve battery, remember the news is typically broadcast on the hour and half hour.
Keep books and board games that do not require electricity on hand. They will help to pass the time.
Have a plan for yourself and your family. Have everyone’s contact information written down and a communication/reunification plan in the event you are separated from your family. If you have a relative you can stay with elsewhere in the event of an evacuation, it is best to discuss and plan for this eventuality in advance, as opposed to just showing up at that person’s door.
Fill out Hawley’s Emergency Needs Survey, a confidential survey kept by the emergency services. This survey lets the town know about residents who have special needs (such as those who lack generators but require electricity to heat their homes, or those with certain medical conditions), so Hawley’s emergency services can assist to townspeople more effectively. The survey also lets you volunteer to check on neighbors or make equipment available to help in a disaster. This survey is sent out with the street list every two years, but, if you would like to update your submission, you can read more about it and find it here.
Get training and volunteer: Consider taking CPR and first aid training, getting a license as an amateur (ham) radio operator, or letting the town know if you have a tractor or chainsaw (or anything else) you would be willing to use to help in the event of a major disaster. The strength of small communities like Hawley is in the diverse resources and skill sets of its populace and the commitment of its residents to one another and to helping the community. Again, filling out the resident Emergency Needs Survey is a great way to do that.
Fire Safety Tips
A Message from Hawley’s Firefighters
Have you ever noticed an increasing number of houses being burnt to the ground over this last year? As firefighters, we certainly have. These fires are often caused by simple, seemingly trivial, mistakes, such as tossing a cigarette too close to the porch or dumping ashes from a fireplace (which can still contain hot embers for hours or even days) next to your house. Even plugging too many appliances or chargers into a single outlet or power strip can have severe consequences. Below are some of the best ways to minimize the risk of a structure fire and, if one occurs, to keep you and your loved ones safe.
Have smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your house and test them and replace batteries regularly per manufacturer’s recommendations. A best practice and good way to remember is to test the alarms when the time changes in the spring. These alarms can save your life … but only if they are working.
Keep fire extinguishers in your kitchen, garage/barn, work area, furnace room, and basement. Always purchase fire extinguishers suitable for the kind of fire you expect to be extinguishing. For instance, a water-based extinguisher is not suitable for electrical or oil/grease fires common in kitchens.
Keep your woodstove and chimney clean. The Hawley Fire Department offers annual chimney cleaning to residents as a free service. For more information or to be put on the chimney cleaning list, call Chief Greg Cox at 413 339-5526 or the Town Office at 413 339-5518 or email email@example.com.
Keep your house tidy, and reduce fire hazards as much as possible. Avoid hoarding paper and cardboard. Avoid keeping paper, cardboard, and flammable items next to heat sources such as wood stoves or dryers, or possible ignition sources such as power strips or candles.
Have your furnaces, water heaters, dryers and other appliances serviced by a properly certified technician in line with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Never leave your cook-stove/oven, candles, oil lamps, fireplaces, or any other source of high heat or flame unattended. Keep all of the above isolated from combustible materials. Short heavy candles contained in glass jars are much safer than tall, thin candles that may fall over.
Never dispose of ashes from your woodstove close to a house, garage, barn, or shed. Ashes are best disposed of in a metal bucket or a pile of snow far away from anything that can burn.
Never place metal items in a microwave. Use only microwave-safe cookware in microwaves.
Never cook inside with a gas or charcoal grill or run gasoline appliances like generators indoors. If you don’t burn the house down, you will kill yourself with carbon-monoxide poisoning. This may seem obvious, but many people have unfortunately lost their lives doing this.
Exercise extreme caution with space heaters and electric blankets. Space heaters should be kept away from curtains or anything flammable, and they should not be left unattended.
Do not allow damp laundry to accumulate in laundry hampers. The layering and moisture can build up heat lead to spontaneous combustion of the contents.
If you smoke, make sure to fully extinguish your cigarettes or cigars. Use heavy, wide ashtrays made of nonflammable material (metal, glass, ceramic), and kept away from anything combustible. Never smoke in bed if there is a chance you will fall asleep while the cigarette is still lit. You may never wake up.
Beware of electrical hazards. Have all electrical work in your home done by a competent licensed electrician. Make sure your electrical appliances are in good working order. Check regularly for noticeable hazards such as frayed cords, and take any such appliances out of use until repaired or replaced. Power strips and extension cords can be useful tools, but are deadly when not used appropriately. Never plug too many electrical devices into a power strip or use an extension cord that is not rated for the electrical load of the appliance(s) running on it. Be especially careful of electronics with lithium batteries like cameras and smart-phones. Only use chargers designed for the device being charged. If you notice a device or charger overheating, unplug it, shut it off, and place it on a nonflammable surface (like bricks).
Keep important documents, data backups, cash, guns, and valuables in a fireproof safe. If there is a fire, properly stored items will likely survive.
Never store ammunition, black powder, or reloading supplies next to your stove or fireplace.
Conduct fire drills with your family. Have a plan and multiple escape routes depending upon different situations. Have an agreed upon meeting space outside your house where everyone will meet and be accounted for in the event of a fire. Know the plan. Practice the plan. Follow the plan.
In the event of a small fire, you may attempt to put it out with a fire extinguisher, but only if you are certain you can control it. When in doubt, or if your attempt fails, GET OUT IMMEDIATELY and STAY OUT!!! Do not re-enter to try to put out the fire or recover personal belongings. Doing so is not worth your life and is not worth the lives of the firefighters you might endanger if they need to go in and try to save you. A fire can go from small to blazing within minutes or even seconds. It is easy to make the mistake of thinking you have more time than you do. You don’t.
When escaping from a fire, try to stay low to the ground, crawling if necessary. There will be less smoke and heat at lower levels.
When firefighters respond, inform them of the situation and, most importantly, inform them whether everyone is accounted for. The tactics utilized and risks firefighters will take are substantially different when human lives are at risk than when they are not.
Our volunteer firefighters are here to keep all of us safe. Do your part by doing everything you can to ensure their safety in return.
Outdoor Safety Tips
Hawley is home to a beautiful 8000-acre State Forest, and many thousands of additional acres of private land are open to outdoor recreation of various kinds year round. Whether you are hiking, biking, hunting, riding horseback, snowmobiling, cross country skiing, camping, or just spending time outdoors, here are some tips that will help keep you and others safe.
Always know where you are going. Study your route and the terrain beforehand. Know your limitations and capabilities.
Check the expected weather forecast for the area in advance. Dress accordingly. If cold weather is expected, dress in layers. This allows you to add or remove clothing while avoiding sweating. If you sweat and then get cold, the damp clothing will create a severe risk of hypothermia.
Always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back or check in. Leaving a map of your expected journey with a friend or family member might just save your life. Establish a set time at which they should contact emergency services if they have not heard from you.
If possible, use the buddy system and bring someone with you.
Understand that there are many places in which your cell phone will not work. Be prepared for this. Radios and satellite communications equipment, while expensive, can be a great way to expand your communications capabilities in an emergency, but, just as with cell phones, you shouldn’t rely on such equipment entirely. One way to improve upon the situation is to identify where you will have service and make calls or send messages to update someone on your position. That way, if something happens, that person will have a recent last-known position.
GPS systems can be helpful for knowing your position, but electronic maps are not always accurate or up to date, and batteries can die. Never rely entirely on technology. It is always a good idea to keep a paper map and a compass … and to know how to use them.
Take a basic survival kit with you. At a minimum, this should include basic first-aid supplies, a flashlight, snacks and water, compass, a means of starting fire, and an emergency blanket (space blanket). A whistle can also be a good idea. Survival kits should be practical but lightweight.
Exercise extreme caution about eating plants or drinking water found in nature. There are poisonous plants and mushrooms that, to an untrained observer, resemble ones that are safe to eat. Surface water and even certain springs can be contaminated with bacteria and dangerous parasites. In a life-threatening emergency, where you must drink water found in nature, it is best to use purification tablets, to use a certified water filter, or to boil the water before drinking it.
Exercise good stewardship of the land following the “leave no trace” principle. Carry out what you carried in.
While campfires are allowed for cooking, never start a fire if there is a risk it could get out of control (for instance in dry windy weather). Never leave fires unattended. Extinguish campfires completely when you are done.
Be aware of the different hunting seasons. Never dress like whatever is being hunted. For example, it is unwise to wear tan clothing during deer season or black clothing during bear season. Colors that do not typically occur in nature, such as blaze orange or safety green, are preferred. If you are deer hunting during shotgun season, you are required to wear “hunter orange.” Even if you are not hunting, wearing bright unnatural colors will help keep you safe.
If you are hunting, always observe the fundamental rules of firearms safety. In particular, always identify your target and what is behind it clearly. Never take a shot unless and until you are sure of what you are shooting at and know there is a safe backstop for your bullet/arrow if you miss.
If you must contact emergency services (and are able to), stay where you are unless you absolutely must move elsewhere or are instructed to do so. Describe your location as well as you can. Cell phone triangulation doesn’t work in real life as it does in movies. It is not always 100 percent accurate. If you make an emergency call and then move to an area without service, dispatchers no longer know where you are. In some cases, it is possible to send a text message even if a call cannot be made from your cell phone. In Hawley, you can text 911 although calls are still preferable. Make your message concise; a short message takes less time to transmit. Make sure that your message contains the nature of your emergency and your location, to the extent that you can describe it. The mapping or GPS app on your smart phone will typically display exact coordinates if you drop a “pin” on your position; this feature can work even where cellular service is poor or non-existent, as your phone uses the signals from GPS satellites (not the cell network) to locate itself. You can cut and paste these coordinates into an emergency text message thereby showing exactly where you are.
How to Obtain a Burn Permit
Open burning of brush and agricultural material is allowed from January 15 to May 1 between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
Before you burn, you need to obtain a permit from the Fire Department.
Permits are issued based on weather conditions, taking into consideration air quality and the risk of wildland fires. It is generally acceptable to burn brush and agricultural materials, but it is not acceptable to burn rubbish, tires, or commercial/industrial material, including material from demolitions. Fires must be supervised at all times, and precautions should be taken.
Outdoor fires for purposes of cooking are allowed year round and do not require a permit, but we ask that you exercise appropriate precautions and safety measures.
For additional information, see: https://www.mass.gov/info-details/open-burning-safety.
How to Obtain a Firearms License or a Hunting License
Purchasing and owning firearms (other than primitive black powder firearms) in Massachusetts requires a Firearms Identification Card (FID) or License to Carry (LTC).
Such licenses are obtained by submitting an application through your local police chief. You will first need to take an approved firearms safety class, and you will be required to pass a criminal background check as part of the application process.
Hawley and Charlemont share a police chief, Jason Pelletier. For additional information, residents are encouraged to contact Chief Pelletier.
For general information on Massachusetts gun laws, please see https://www.mass.gov/info-details/gun-ownership-in-massachusetts.
Having a FID or LTC is NOT the same as having a hunting license. Hunting and fishing licenses are purchased online from the State or at certain retailers of sporting goods. The Town of Hawley no longer sells hunting or fishing licenses directly. A prequalification is having taken an approved Hunter Education course.
For more information about obtaining a hunting or fishing license, see https://www.mass.gov/how-to/buy-your-hunting-license.
For more information on hunting seasons and regulations, see https://www.mass.gov/doc/2023-hunting-season-summary/download and https://www.mass.gov/hunting-regulations.
This helpful list of dos (and don’ts!) was compiled by Jacob Gilbert, Hussain Hamdan, and Brandon Root.