The following letter from Wilton Police Chief Michael Lombardo and Fire Chief Paul Milositz discusses the response of town emergency services to the July 21 storm.
The recent storm that swept through the northwest section of Wilton, on July 21, was extremely devastating to many residents, as evidenced by the large number of homes in town that were without power, some for two days. At one point Connecticut Light & Power reported that 35 percent of Wilton residents were without power, the largest percentage of any town in the state affected by the storm.
Approximately 2,800 residents were without power in Wilton at the highest point. Wilton's emergency services were completely taxed that evening and the following day, with road closures, alarms and calls for assistance from some of those who were affected by the power outage. During the height of the storm, police and fire personnel were responding to all types of calls for assistance. Police were also needed for investigation of an accident in which one of the CERT [Community Emergency Response Teams] team members, who was helping with a road closure, had his personal car struck by an intoxicated driver at 7:45 in the evening. This led to an arrest for DUI. Several other critical incidents also required police officers to respond.
Fire personnel responded to no less than 35 calls during the storm and shortly after requiring investigation for reported fires, fire alarms, trees down and EMS calls. Officials called in extra personnel to assist the community with the many calls and to safeguard against those who were trying to drive under or over downed power lines that were suspected to still be live.
First Selectman Bill Brennan, Deputy Fire Chief Mark Amatrudo and Police Chief Michael Lombardo coordinated their efforts that evening to respond to the severity of the storm as quickly as possible. On Thursday morning, Mr. Brennan called a meeting of the emergency services leaders and the Director of Public Works, Thomas Thurkettle, at the Town's Emergency Operations Center so that a concentrated effort was sustained by all of the services throughout town. At that time, Mr. Brennan had already spoken with CL&P officials, encouraging a larger response to Wilton than we had already seen. CL&P quickly responded and more crews were dispatched to Wilton. Once they confirmed that power lines were no longer energized, Public Works crews went to work clearing trees from the roadways so that passage could be allowed.
In the past when a storm of great magnitude came through town, communication to residents had been a top priority for town officials. The Kiwanis Urgent Email notification system, which serves approximately 600 residents, the town's websites and the local media are updated with information as frequently as possible. Following this storm, town officials also employed the town's emergency notification system, known as Code Red, to send out a recorded telephone announcement to each household in Wilton about the present status and to provide safety recommendations regarding fallen power lines. Several years ago, the town authored and mailed to each household in Wilton a 24 page Emergency Preparedness Guide with recommendations of how to handle emergencies such as this storm. This information-packed guide is still available for download on the town's website (see Police or Fire).
Communication is always an important factor in any situation that affects the community, and we as public service officials are always looking for ways to improve. To this end, the town will be gearing up to add additional contact numbers to the Code Red emergency notification system by allowing residents to sign up for emergency notifications to their cell phones, pagers and texting devices. This online service will expedite the flow of emergency communications between town officials and residents. Watch for upcoming announcements for further details on how and where to register. Additionally, the Office of Emergency Management is exploring the use of social networking systems, such as Twitter and Facebook, as possible avenues to reach a wide portion of our residents.
In summary, town emergency services officials routinely meet to discuss the response to storms and other emergency situations to debrief and be better prepared for the next event. We encourage constructive suggestions from residents as well. Our goal is to continually improve our emergency services capabilities to better serve those affected in the future.
Police Chief Michael Lombardo,
Fire Chief and Emergency Management Director Paul Milositz
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