NORWALK, Conn. – It may not even officially be summer yet, but Norwalk’s Emergency Management Team met Wednesday to share information about its preparations for this year’s hurricane season.
The team includes members of the fire department, police department, public works, public transit and the city’s social service agencies. They all gathered at the Emergency Operations Center at the Norwalk Fire Department to unveil new equipment.
“We want to make sure all of the team is on the same page, that they understand all of the coordination efforts that have been taken in the past year to be better prepared as a team for our emergency response, and to share any updates in the emergency plan,” Fire Chief Denis McCarthy said.
Over the past year, the fire department has used federal grants to purchase two variable message signs, which McCarthy said will be instrumental in sharing information during a hurricane. The signs can be placed around town to let residents know what’s open and closed, where shelters are located and where they can purchase emergency supplies, he said.
Also purchased were two 14-foot light towers to light up distribution areas for emergency supplies and two remote-controlled drones that can be used to assess the most impacted neighborhoods.
The fire department tries to learn from every emergency event, McCarthy said. From Hurricane Sandy, the learned the importance of sharing information. Because many people might lose power and access to the Internet or media, it is important for responders to be able to give accurate information about shelters and emergency supplies.
“We brief our responders twice a day and give them printed materials on what is open and what’s available so they can share the best information and the most accurate information,” McCarthy said.
Many members of the emergency team also underwent training in Texas last month and gained useful information for use in an event such as a hurricane.
But the biggest lesson they learned in training was the importance of preparation during a disaster, McCarthy said.
“While the emergency crews are dealing with the most immediate concerns, we here in the emergency operations center are anticipating what are their needs going to be for the next 12 to 24 hours and making sure we have the resources and the equipment and the personnel to sustain the operation,” he said.