The word 'Sandy' no longer just evokes pleasent thoughts of beaches and water.
Torandos, blizzards, and now hurricanes!
The sawdust is beginning to settle on Hurricane Sandy’s impact on our region. We experienced record setting power outages, massive tree damage, massive electrical power infrastructure damage- and not a single injury to life and human limb!
|typical backyard problem|
There was plenty of drama and some humor. The drama was the increasing concern about senior citizens in the high rise apartments without heat and water pressure. Many would not leave without pets, and many places would not accept pets. The American Red Cross came to the rescue- literally and figuratively. They set up a terrific shelter serving over 200 citizens. They also brought food to the senior citizen high rise apartments. The Red Cross is truly deserving of our support.
|Red Cross Food Delivery at LakeShore Towers on the Gold Coast. power restored Friday morning|
Humor showed up when a group of citizens were camped out in a lobby of a gold coast building. When informed that they could go the Red Cross Shelter for food and warmth, the politely asked if wine was served. When informed that no, it was not, they quickly decided to stay put.
What did we do? We used Twitter, Facebook, email, web site announcements, fielded hundreds of calls per day. I conducted interviews with local media including each of the TV networks. No one strategy was enough. We organized our ability to more quickly deploy generators to more traffic signals. We walked neighborhoods that were without power to asses and communicate. We communicated with CEI several times daily to share and obtain information to pass along.
|Gold Coast power restoration- 10 trucks needed|
We worked with the Red Cross to open a shelter. This was a first for Lakewood. It went very well.
What did we learn from this? Huge storms seem more frequent. Each of us has to improve our emergency preparedness. Our information sharing strategies and methods have to be improved. A particular challenge was the fact that the very homes we desired to reach were unable to use electronic devices (smartphones, TV’s, internet access from computers). Many citizens are not users of social media.
|Red Cross Cots in Garfield Gym|
What have we done as a result?
We have added AM radio updates to our communication tool chest. We need to work with CEI to obtain an agreement/protocol to let a dedicated crew with high bucket capability coordinate with our Fire Chief to address downed lines, especially those blocking streets. We have arranged to leverage county resources more effectively such as sheriff Deputies to help guard down wires and man shelters.
We added a emergency preparedness link on the City’s Web page to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA www.ready.gov) to provide “how to” information. (Right side of www.onelakewood.com)
What must still be done?
· Meet with CEI (scheduled for December 12th) to identify communication improvements. Identify the actions that had the most and least effect. Advocate to CEI to perform replacements of very old poles and wires.
· Replace some of the back-up folding stop signs that were removed when new traffic poles were installed.
· Identify how to use our school system communication capability more effectively for city use and updates. This includes robo- calls and signs on school buildings.
· Create more awareness that we have to work as community to help communicate and look after one another.
· We need to support and recruit more CERT volunteers. Citizens Emergency Response Team consists of citizens who have received training to support the myriad of tasks that will free our Police and Fire Safety Forces to focus on more threatening issues.
· In general, we need to keep learning from each of these experiences, and not forget the lessons already learned.