There are always lessons to learn from the services which we provide at Town Hall.
There are always lessons to learn from the services which we provide at Town Hall. This is particularly true with respect to our response to the Hurricane Sandy. On November 15, 2012, the department heads met with my administration to discuss these particular issues. The nature of our electric service, improvements thereto, our response to JCPL and the Governor in terms of our level of frustration was left for another day.
The after action meeting regarding the municipal operations as a result of Hurricane Sandy was held on November 15, 2012 at 9:00am in the council chambers.
The general consensus was that the municipal operations, considering the breadth and magnitude of the storm went very well, but the following areas were deemed in need of improvement:
I. Communications – Outside of emergency alert and communications under the police department which were not subject to the after action review, keeping the public informed as the events transpire, the effort went extremely well even to the point of citizens from other communities relying upon Mount Olive for information. However the problem remains of those who do not have smart phones or electronics access how is the message disseminated?
1. Establish an information hotline on 973-691-0900. Provide for a separate extension for emergency information set up with a voice message updated every 2-3 hours or as needed. This would enable persons with regular cell phones who have been able to charge but do not have internet or other high tech access to achieve information.
2. Enhanced use of Everbridge Communications system – currently citizens can sign up directly online and register their personal phone numbers to receive communications as well. This needs to be publicized more so citizens can access this level of communications.
3. Master list of homebound seniors and other disabled – There currently is a law whereby persons who are reliant upon power for their medical needs must register with local fire departments. This list is currently passed onto police dispatch that has a master list.
Future procedural operation in pre event planning meeting must be the combined sharing of information in this matter between dispatch, Health Department so personal visits can be made upon the homebound to ensure their safety is ensured during events such as this.
4. Liaison with apartment managers – This storm affected many residents of the residential villages and complexes in town. Effort should be made to establish a regular relationship with the managers to ensure in the event of large scale power outage they would know to respond to warming center or town hall to obtain flyers with lists of resources and where to obtain information. The managers would be tasked with then supplying their own communities with this initial information so the residents know where to turn.
5. Flyer communications with retailers – many residents that would not think of inquiring or going to a warming center will be shopping at the large retailers for water and other supplies. As part of the pre planning process flyer level information should be posted on these establishments doors informing of where local information can be obtained as well as the location of the warming center.
6. Continuity of government – one of the biggest concerns was the fact that the township operations had to be run off site for the week of the hurricane. Initial thoughts were to obtain a generator for the rest of town hall but after discussion the following items were identified as more cost effective:
a. Identification of heating and power needs in council chambers for temporary government setup.
b. Identification of communications and internet enhancement within the room.
This may be a more cost effective yet town hall centered solution where citizens can still obtain needed government services within the municipal building.
7. Variable Message Boards – need and desire to enhance our current fleet of boards. These will be sought through Haz Mit grants which are usually announced in later winter every year.
8. Volunteers – the response from the community was overwhelming. The only need identified was to pre plan the volunteer response into segmented operational needs (i.e. senior visits, shower facilities, warming center information, coffee and food service among other needs).
The consensus was for OEM to seek to initiate one or both of the following:
a. Establish a CERT team or,
b. Separately establish a deputy coordinator or other command level position in charge of volunteers. This person would then pre coordinate the list of volunteers and provide for areas of needs and responsibilities.
Overall the level of municipal response was extremely satisfactory. Much public consternation was avoided by the Township’s tireless efforts and presence throughout the community.
Operationally the goals as listed above will be brought up at monthly staff meetings until these issues have been resolved and implemented.
Please feel free to contact the Township with additional issues which you believew need to be addressed.
Wishing everyone a Safe & Healthy Holiday .
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