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We Need A Better Plan

This winter storm is one to remember. Let's just hope we remember the lessons we have learned from it because we can do better.

Avon is a ghost town. Residents have moved in with family and friends. Indeed, my Facebook page is littered with updates from the Boston children's museum to Rockefeller Center to Uncasville, Connecticut. And those are the lucky ones.

Many other residents are stuck in town that feels more post-apocolyptic than a home.

This is not a post to express outrage or frustration over how long it is taking to get power back. We finally had some of our town leaders expressing what many of us have been saying for days -- there is no way we're getting power back soon. Nor is this a post to say that our town leaders have failed us.

It's too easy to point fingers. Rather, the time seems right to say that in the weeks and months to come, our town needs to sit down, figure out the lessons learned from this storm and develop a better plan. Because it is apparent that whatever planning we did, we can do more and learn lessons from this storm. To be sure, this is a historic storm.

Worse than Gloria and worse than the Ice Storm of 1973 that many of us have used as benchmarks to measure how bad things will be. But as those storms have shown us, these types of storms are not unprecedented. Long before we were here, there was the Blizzard of 1888 and the Great Hurricane of 1938. Heck, there were even the floods of 1955, from which a great kids book "Flood Friday" was written. Disaster will strike again.

So here are four areas that I hope our town leaders will address in a future plan.

1. Traffic is turning into a nightmare. Coming off of Route 4 tonight, drivers experienced delays of an hour. Where is the police to help guide traffic? Why -- six days later -- is there no power to major thoroughfares? Opening major roads for commuting and keeping them safe has to be among the top priorities after a storm. Six days later, that still hasn't happened. Avon leaders should be working with surrounding towns to make sure our residents can get out to work and safely back home.

2. We could use a more user friendly website and a centralized source for information. In this time, people are relying on Facebook and Twitter, as well. The reverse 911 calls for the first few days -- while a good way to get in touch with someone -- sometimes had not as specific information as perhaps it could. ("Prepare for an extended outage" -- is that 3 days or 10?)) Residents count on the town to give specifics, not generalities. As much as I like Avon Patch, we shouldn't have to rely on Avon Patch to get our information. Until today, some people I've talked with have largely seen the town as a bystander and reliant on CL&P to get the message out too. (The notice posted today about opening the transfer station -- while overdue -- is a big step in the right direction.) Have a more interactive site where you answer questions like: What happens to trash? Mail? Is the water safe to drink? What are doing with all the debris? And while we don't have a mayor in our form of government, someone should be designated as the spokesperson for the town. Is it the Town Council Chair Mark Zacchio or Town Manager Brandon Robertson? Live stream a press conference or speech from one of them, and consider doing the same for meetings of the town.

3. When disaster strikes, we need to be responsible for ourselves. While I understand CL&P is responsible for the power lines, and trees that fall on them, what about everything else? Until Wednesday, there were trees -- with no power lines -- down on Oakengates and Cotswold Way, just to name a few. And they weren't blocked off with tape. Why so long? And there are lots of areas where there are big limbs down on sides of roads partially blocking them. Who clears them? Understanding who should be doing what would be a helpful exercise as well. 

4. This storm should also reinforce the need for regional cooperation. That trend has been ongoing for several years but it ought to be sped up in various areas. There is no reason for Avon or other towns in the Farmington Valley to be going at things alone. It's easy in this time of crisis to criticize everyone for not doing enough. But it's hard to learn lessons from storms like this to ensure that they do not repeat itself. I hope we take the hard way out on this one instead of just pointing fingers at someone else.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Roy S. November 05, 2011 at 02:41 AM
It is clear that the town of Avon did not have an emergency plan to follow. Thank goodness for the school nurses, school custodians and school food service staff that came in to man the emergency center at the high school. But why wasnt there a towns person to direct the emergency center? After 9/11 every town was supposed to develop an emergency plan. Where was Avon's? If there was a plan but it wasn't followed...shame on town management. If there wasn't a plan...shame on town management. Either way we better get a plan quickly before the next storm in December or January. Hope the town manager reads this blog!
Mark Zacchio November 08, 2011 at 02:47 PM
"Roy S." - not only is there a plan, it was enacted day 1 of the event. The Emergency Operations Center is located at the Police Department, is run by Jamie DePace who is an Avon building official and retired Fire Chief, (and has more experience and certifications than I can document in this blog) and meets each day at 11am. All major departments, officials, and operations are represented and work together to launch the plans and deal with issues. The shelter is NOT run by the schools, but they staff it along with other town staff who are always there. Alan Rosenburg who is the Director of Avon Social Services department is responsible for and has been running the shelter since day 1. Our PD has been on mandatory 12 hr shifts, DPW has been working to clear what they can safely everyday since the event without time off, and the EOC staff has been on the ground working 24hrs a day. The magnitude of this event, along with the lack of good information and coordination from CL&P has been challenging for sure. I'd be happy to explain more to you at anytime or make the Town Manaager or other EOC operations staff avaiable for the same once this crisis is over. The safety of our residents and employee's has been our focus since day 1 and will continue to be as we work out of this disaster.
Kelley Lanahan November 08, 2011 at 04:38 PM
Daniel, you're famous! http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/07/nyregion/connecticut-utility-wont-meet-goal-to-restore-power.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=avon,%20ct&st=cse

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