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County Business Leader Heads Irene Task Force

STAMFORD, Conn – Just about everyone in Connecticut has a Hurricane Irene disaster story–especially those in the 800,000 households that lost electrical power–some for more than a week.

That's why Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday appointed a seven-member task force led by Co-Chairman Joe McGee, vice-president of the Business Council of Fairfield County in Stamford, to study what went wrong and how the state can better prepare for storm emergencies in the future.

Former Stamford Fire Chief Robert McGrath was also named to the panel.

"Some things went right, but others went terribly wrong, including the loss of power to so many households, many for a week or longer, and there were overall communications breakdowns as well," said McGee, a Fairfield resident. "We're a small state, but we had more people without power per capita than just about anywhere. We plan to study how to ensure that doesn't happen again."

Malloy said the task force will review "more than just the most recent event."

In establishing the State Team Organized for the Review of Management of Irene (STORM) assessment group, Malloy indicated the panel is being charged with "looking more broadly at the state's disaster preparedness and response apparatus."

The panel includes retired Army Maj. Gen. James Skiff, who is also co-chair, and other individuals with "diverse professional backgrounds in the military, disaster relief, municipal government, non-profit and labor sectors," Malloy said.

"The panel will review the performance of the state and its partners–including the utilities and municipalities–in terms of the preparedness and response and recovery efforts related to Tropical Storm Irene," Malloy said.

"Now that peoples' power has been restored, the initial FEMA declarations signed, offices opened and the recovery effort well underway, it's time to move forward with a comprehensive assessment of how the State of Connecticut prepared for, handled, and is recovering from Irene," Malloy said. "And I don't just mean state agencies, or the power companies; I mean the entire state.

"Yes, it's important to understand why power was out for so long, but it's just as important to understand how state agencies and local officials performed, and how the private sector reacted," the governor said. "We need an honest assessment of what we did right, what we could have done better and what needs to be done the next time we have a weather-related event such as Irene."

McGee said he expects the task force to start meeting shortly to prepare a report by the end of November.

"The goal is to take a look at what happened during Irene and other storms like the March nor'easter that resulted in widespread power outages, and come up with recommendations how to improve our preparedness," McGee said.

"We are a very vulnerable state because while small, we have a large coastal area and a lot of rivers and streams," he said. "We had a very tough winter last year and storms are not going to stop. But we have to come up with ways to better prepare for them."

Other panel members include: Peter Carozza, president, Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters; Terry Edelstein: president, Connecticut Community Providers Association; Lee Hoffman, attorney, Pullman & Comley Environmental Law and Energy and Utility Matters; Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, and Sprague First Selectwoman Cathy Osten.

To reach Richard Weizel, email rweizel@mainstreetconnect.us.

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