New Canaan powers up after Irene
Published 4:15 pm, Wednesday, September 7, 2011
More than a week after Tropical Storm Irene plowed through New Canaan, electricity has been restored and residents have returned to their daily routines. The Office of Emergency Management Command Center in the Police Department has shut down, schools have finally started and the Facebook page is relatively quiet.
"It took a team of just over 100 town officials, employees and volunteers in the EOC to manage the challenges of Irene," OEM Director Mike Handler said. "Collectively we executed our plans and developed creative solutions to various obstacles. Having worked closely with all of our emergency services personnel over the past 11 years I have developed very high expectations for their performance. Yet each time we come together in situations such as these I am blown away not just by their professionalism but by their dedication to the people of New Canaan. New Canaan separates itself from others in two ways when it comes to emergency management. The first is the eagerness of all departments to work together as a team; and second, the ability to mobilize spontaneous volunteers and integrate them seamlessly into the process."
Handler commended several residents of the community who used a creative approachto help out those without power.
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"Take for instance the `generator exchange' program that New Canaan resident Betty Lovastik dreamt up and shared with us via Facebook. Betty came up with the idea of pairing those with portable generators who had power restored to their homes with those who were still in dire need," Handler said. "She then graciously agreed to come in to the EOC and manage the process with us."
"The utility of our Facebook page has wildly exceeded my expectations but not for the reasons you might expect. When the idea was first brought to me I perceived the value in being able to push information out to residents who were without power, telephones, and Internet access," Handler said. "What I did not realize, which several of my colleagues must have, was that Facebook could be used for residents to push valuable information to the EOC. We were able to get instant reports of damage even when we could not gain access because of blocked roadways. Several of the homes with significant tree damage were discovered because of pictures that were posted. We would then dispatch officers to check on the well being of any occupants."
It was that creativity and ingenuity that Handler was most proud of. He believes this experience has been a great learning experience and prepared the OEM for any other challenges ahead.
"There is no limit to what this group can accomplish collectively. We are grateful for the understanding of our families, the support of our community and stand ready to serve again."