June 1 marks the start of Atlantic hurricane season, and although it is unlikely that New Fairfield will suffer a direct strike (I am knocking on wood as I type these words!), we sometimes experience the effects of hurricane “remnants.” Very often these effects include high winds, heavy rain and power outages. To ensure that we are prepared to respond in the event of a widespread storm event, the New Fairfield emergency response team met last month to review procedures and lessons learned from May 15, 2018. The team includes the Emergency Management Director, Fire Chief, Police Resident trooper Sargent, Shelter Manager, Fire Marshal, Public Works Superintendent, Health Director, Director of Buildings and Grounds for New Fairfield Schools and myself. We were also joined by our Eversource Community Relations Specialist.
Discussion focused on the importance of communication during emergency response –between internal team members, the municipality and external responders and between the Town and residents. We are in the process of implementing web and cloud based software provided by the CT Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security which will ensure that all municipal responders have access to information such as road closures, downed wires and other potential hazards. The Director of Emergency Management, Maria Evans, has also been working closely with Eversource to develop a staging area at Squantz Pond State Park to facilitate a large scale response when necessary.
The team also discussed the importance of volunteers in emergency response. Our community demonstrated its resilience in the days following May 15 as neighbor reached out to neighbor and volunteers stepped up to help in every way possible. Volunteers are critical to our emergency shelter operations, traffic control, damage assessment and public outreach. The Town is still accepting applications for a CERT (Community Emergency Response Team, a training program that prepares members to help the community and assist emergency responders in the event of a disaster. If you already signed up for CERT training, thank you! If you are interested, please contact the Emergency Management Director at 203-312-5723.
I also encourage residents to be prepared for whatever Mother Nature may send our way. The National Weather Service recommends having enough food, water and other supplies on hand to last for 72 hours. As we learned on May 15, it is not unrealistic for New Fairfield residents to be isolated and without power for an extended period of time. A basic emergency kit should include:
You may also consider:
If you have not signed up for the “Alert Now” system to receive notification from the Selectman’s Office regarding weather alerts and emergency response, I encourage you to fill out the form on the Home Page of the Town Website, www.newfairfield.org. Following the May 15 storm, I used “Alert Now” to provide information on road closures, power restoration and shelter services. You may choose to receive notification by land line phone, cell phone, text and/or e-mail. Finally, if you or a family member has special medical needs that could be impacted by an extended power outage or other emergency, please contact the New Fairfield Director of Emergency Management at 203-312-5723 to complete a “Medical Disability or Special Assistance Notification Form.” This information will remain confidential, but will alert emergency responders to your needs.