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In anticipation of the ramping up of hurricane season, Newtown’s Emergency Management Team, Director Bill Halstead and Deputies Maureen Will, Donna Culbert, and Rob Sibley, are urging residents to seriously take inventory of their preparedness, regarding both plans and emergency supplies.
While hurricane season officially began June 1, it runs through November 30. Ms Culbert warns, however, that local experience shows that the most severe storms that have struck Newtown occurred later in the summer and even the fall.
One named storm, Arlene, already hit the United States last month. And the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) says it expects between 11 and 17 named storms (with sustained winds of 39 mph or higher), and from five to nine hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) this season.
Two to four of these storms are predicted to affect or directly hit Connecticut according to NOAA models.
“We know severe weather conditions don’t really follow the calendar,” Ms Culbert told The Newtown Bee this week. “There are very few weeks when we shouldn’t already be on our toes for snow, freezing temps, heavy rains, high winds, lightning, even high heat. The charm of ever-changing New England weather.”
After reviewing their status, Ms Culbert said residents should make appropriate preparations to ensure personal safety and readiness, and that includes provisions to protect pets.
Local preparedness officials say that it is critically important to be informed.
“How people seek information can vary greatly,” Ms Culbert observed. “After-action review of nearly every exercise and real-world event has identified communication as an area needing improvement or expansion.”
Deputy EMD Maureen Will, who is also director of Newtown’s Emergency Communications Center, works to drive home that message to all residents.
“Please, sign up to receive communication from the Town of Newtown,” she said. “The best decisions are informed decisions.”
To ensure that residents are notified ahead of, during, and after a dangerous weather event or disaster, the preparedness team encourages residents and family members of residents who reside elsewhere to register now with Newtown’s CodeRed system so you they receive CodeRed alerts provided by the town.
“Be sure to include your cellphone number so you may receive the messages,” Ms Culbert said. For CodeRed messages, register at newtown-ct.gov or call 203-270-4370 for assistance.
Residents can also register with Smart911 so a specific and secure profile can be created for family members, pets, home details, etc, by clicking on the link on the town website or contact Ms Will at Newtown Emergency Communications 203-270-4296 for assistance.
Residents can also subscribe to receive emergency texta and announcements sent out to the community from the first selectmen’s office. Sign up on newtown-ct.gov.
“I recommend that residents also monitor The Newtown Bee online at newtownbee.com, as well as the paper’s Facebook and Twitter, which may have immediate emergency information, along with any other local media that supplies local up-to-date details about impending weather or other emergencies,” Ms Culbert said. “The Bee’s staff closely monitor the town’s actions during emergencies to then help inform the public.”
If conditions warrant it, the town will open a shelter or center for residents to rest, shower, charge electrical equipment, and/or for eating and sleeping.
“It is important that residents subscribe to the communication pathways listed above so they can receive information if a shelter will be opened, its location, services offered, and opening/closing hours,” Ms Culbert added.
Health & Medical Needs
“Many residents live successfully and independently with challenging health conditions and medical needs by understanding what it takes to manage them,” Ms Culbert said. “But severe conditions and/or power outage can dramatically interfere with that success.”
As a result, it is important for individuals who have such needs to plan for emergencies well in advance of dangerous events.
“Those residents and their families should review what will be the continuity of care from existing professional assistance, whether it be the supply of medications, home delivery of essential supplies such as oxygen and/or durable medical equipment, and other specific needs,” Ms Culbert said. “Have an up-to-date list of your prescription and nonprescription medications.”
The Newtown Volunteer Ambulance Corps offers a free ‘File of Life’ which is a good, centralized place to keep prescription and important medical details so they are available to responders if needed.
Ms Culbert and her preparedness colleagues also urge residents to be neighborly.
“Residents are encouraged to get to know their neighbors now so that they aren’t meeting for the first time in high stress situations,” she said.
Ms Culbert said that important numbers and contact information should be kept handy include:
To report a power outage, call Eversource: 800-286-2000
Connecticut’s free information and referral service: call 211 or visit 211ct.org
To reach the Municipal Center at Fairfield Hills:
First Selectman’s Office — 203-270-4201
Emergency Management/Fire Marshal — 203-270-4370
Health District — 203-270-4291
Access a state-sponsored free preparedness app for the whole family called CT Prepares by visiting ct.gov/demhs/site/default.asp
And / or access this website for preparedness information: ready.gov.
And always remember, if there is a life safety emergency, call 911.
“Preparedness is everyone’s responsibility,” Ms Culbert affirmed. “The town works to minimize effects of disasters through comprehensive mitigation, planning, training, and response. But residents need to do their part, as they have the best understanding of their own property, personal physical, emotional, and medical circumstances.”