Sandy Forces Heights Officials to Seek Better Disaster Communications Plan
Hasbrouck Heights officials reflect on how the borough fared through Hurricane Sandy and what measures can be taken to prevent power outages and better communicate to residents during a natural disaster.
Hasbrouck Heights officials spoke Tuesday of the disasters Hurricane Sandy brought to the borough and how they can move towards finding better ways to communicate during such an event which tore down trees and power lines all through the borough leaving thousands in the dark, some for more than a week.
Mayor Rose Heck called the scene that followed in the days after a Sandy “a warzone.” Caution tape blocked off streets that were shut due to downed trees tangled in power lines, people were cold in their homes without heat and power for days.
Communicating with the public was challenging as most had no Internet including at Borough Hall and cellular coverage was spotty as well, officials said.
The mayor apologized to the public stating they wanted to get help much faster than they wanted but the borough’s hands were tied as PSE&G had to tend to thousands in the area without power.
Heck said she wants the borough to develop a better form of communication for which to alert the public on what is happening during events like Sandy.
The mayor raised the idea of having an emergency vehicle which would drive around town broadcasting the message via a loudspeaker. Police Chief Michael Colaneri suggested that this type of system has been used in the past and may not be the most efficient form of communication as those who don’t hear the message clearly could become alarmed instead of informed.
Officials discussed the possibility of implementing a Reverse 911 system which Colaneri said he’s been told by other police chiefs who have dealt with such disasters works well in such situations.
The system can make phone calls to people’s landlines and also send a text message to cellphones, which the chief said was one of the best forms of communications in the days that followed Sandy.
Borough Administrator Mike Kronyak said under the difficult circumstances the borough operated as best as it could. “We felt everyone’s pain, we dealt with as many calls as we could,” he said adding that unfortunately there was no way they could reach everyone in town.
Trees bringing down the power lines is said to be the largest problem leading to power outages during storm events such as Sandy.
A resident of Longworth Avenue came forward Tuesday night to share her story of a tree that she has reported as problematic repeatedly over the years. She stated her property has suffered damage due to fallen branches from previous storms and now Sandy caused the tree to fall on her house causing extensive damage.
Mayor Heck informed the public that going forward PSE&G reports it will now remove trees that are reported as a threat to power lines as a preventative measure against problems storms like Sandy could cause n the future. The mayor said the trees would be replaced with smaller ones that would not grow as high.
Borough Engineer Ken job commented that the new trees recently planted on the Boulevard were chosen for just that reason, as they will not grow as high as power lines and therefore problems should be avoided in the future.