Maplewood administrators recently discussed how to improve communication with residents and public utilities, as well as other strategies, to prepare for the next emergency or natural disaster.
At a Nov. 28 meeting of the township's Local Emergency Planning Committee, department heads reviewed how they had prepared for Hurricane Sandy and what lessons the township had learned for the future.
Attending were Maplewood Police Chief Robert Cimino, Maplewood Fire Chief John Richardella, Maplewood Director of Public Works Eric Burbank, Maplewood Township Administrator Joseph Manning, Maplewood Health Officer Robert Roe, Maplewood Construction Officer Robert Mittermaier, Maplewood Recreation Director Keith Knudsen, Maplewood Library Director Sarah Lester, Maplewood Board of Education Representative Bill Kyle, Maplewood Health Educator Candace Davenport, Maplewood Citizen Representative Harold Bobrow, Maplewood Township Committeeman Jerry Ryan and Maplewood Mayor Vic De Luca.
The committee proposed a variety of steps, including installing generators at key buildings and enhancing communications with public utilities and NJ Transit, said De Luca.
He also released a chart detailing key statistics during the storm.
"It shows what we accomplished during the storm and the importance of the library as a community place," said DeLuca. (See the chart attached as a PDF to this article)
"The document also shows the tremendous impact of the storm," said DeLuca, with
PSE&G estimated the township would be restored in 7-10 days. Power was restored to 99 percent of customers by Nov. 8, 10 days later.
"Additionally, in the middle of all the chaos we ensure that people could vote where they normally vote," said DeLuca. (Clinton School and Prospect Presbyterian Church).
The township is still determining the storm's cost, but Manning has estimated debris and wreckage removal and disposal (including overtime costs) will amount to roughly $200,000, with miscellaneous costs of $50,000.
Here are some of the township's accomplishments during and after the storm:
- Held two live televised press conferences on Monday, Oct. 29 (10 a.m. and 4 p.m.) and one press conference on Tuesday, Oct. 30 at 10 a.m.
- Made three Robocalls between Oct. 29 and Nov. 3
- Initiated 10 discussions on Maplewood Online with dozens of daily updates and responses to questions
- Township committee members presented daily in-person updates at town hall, Morrow Memorial Church and DeHart Shelter.
According to notes from the Nov. 28 meeting, here are steps the township will take or consider in the future:
To improve communication with residents:
- set up low frequency, AM/FM radio capacity
- create a public bulletin board at town hall and use community boards around town for township postings
- consider “cloud computing” to maintain Internet capacity
- utilize networks of block groups, neighborhood associations and other civic groups to help convey written, phone and electronic messages from the township
- better utilize the township’s website with more frequent updates
- utilize multiple methods of communication – phone, emails, texting, leaflets, in-person presentations
- engage in citizen education on disaster preparation throughout the entire year
- convey up-to-date information on street closures
- undertake a major campaign to register citizens for Code Red and email notifications
To prepare public buildings:
- install generators at town hall and DeHart Center
- consider the need for generators at other public facilities including library buildings, Columbia High School and the Burgdorff Center
- increase wi-fi capacity
To improve the township's relationship with pubic utilities:
- become more educated about the water distribution system and electrical circuits in town.
- invite water and electric company to meetings of the Local Emergency Planning Committee
- consider training DPW personnel as electric line workers to minimize wait time for PSE&G crews to deal with down wires
Other steps include:
- secure additional generators to allow for more lighting, operation of traffic lights at major intersections
- improve operation of shelter; look at how other towns operate shelters, upgrade DeHart kitchen
- create closer relationship and communication with NJ Transit