FAIRFIELD, Conn. – Better communication: Those two words sum up what Fairfield will need the next time it faces a storm such as Hurricane Irene or the Halloween weekend snowstorm, according to Art Reid, deputy fire chief and assistant emergency manager.
Reid gave a report on the two storms to the Board of Selectmen on Wednesday night. Although Fairfield’s emergency agencies “worked very well together” during the storms, he said they can still communicate better among themselves as well as with the state, utilities and the public.
Most of the work Reid suggested involves better communication with state agencies and utilities, especially United Illuminating. First Selectman Michael Tetreau expressed frustration that although the electric company had representatives in the town’s emergency operations center, even they had trouble getting information from within the company.
“We’re improving our process,” Tetreau said. “And through that we’ll make UI improve theirs.”
As for the public, Reid said he has mostly received a good response from residents about getting information. But he suggested that more people sign up for the town’s Reverse 911 system. The automatic call service goes directly to all registered landlines. Reid said he hopes more Fairfielders register their cellphones on the list as well. Those interested can add their phone numbers at the Fairfield Police website.
The selectmen praised the police and fire departments’ use of mobile posts on Black Rock Turnpike and Stratfield Road to get information out to people without power and phones. They suggested setting up designated spots across town where people can go in such an emergency. Those spots would be announced before a storm hits.
Within the town government, Reid said Fairfield’s department heads could work better with the Board of Education on making sure schools are set up as shelters and deciding whether to cancel classes. Selectman James Walsh also asked whether the town could keep better track of road closures. Reid said he and the Department of Public Works is working to use its computer system to add that function.
“I know we have the technology in place, we need to just work on how we coordinate all this,” Reid said. “It can be done. It’s not going to be done next week, but we’re going in that direction.”