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Storm Was Eye-Opener, Council President Says

Allen Kurdyla said Sandy was bigger than expected, and they have to figure out what needs to change.

It was the first time the township has ever experienced a storm of its kind—and now, as the clean-up from Hurricane Sandy continues, it is time to reassess and make changes where necessary.

Residents have expressed concerns about the level of communication coming from the township during the storm, saying that they would like to see more avenues used.

And council president Allen Kurdyla said that that is what has to be explored now.

“I am of the opinion that this storm was an eye opener for everyone,” he said. “We are going to learn and try to come up with ways to improve communication in the future.”

With regard to who does the communicating, Kurdyla said there is a specific organizational structure followed involving emergency services and the mayor of the township.

The mayor by position, Kurdyla said, is the overall director of emergency services.

“We as council members, with regard to the Office of Emergency Management, do not have a role in the structure,” he said.

When the mayor and Office of Emergency Management declare an emergency, that opens the Emergency Operation Center (EOC).

“The OEM coordinator goes through a chart with people having defined responsibilities,” Kurdyla said. “They have contacts with the utilities and representatives.”

If anything needs to be done, Kurdyla said, it goes to the utilities through the EOC. And status reports go through the mayor and a public information officer.

“My feeling is any direction we get should be the mayor to the EOC to the council,” he said. “Then we can answer any questions that come up.”

But, Kurdyla said, the council is not the official conduit of information.

And during Hurricane Sandy, Kurdyla said, the mayor continuously issued statements through the township website.

But in this storm, the township learned that that website is not always available.

“Two weeks ago, I would have said the chances are low that we couldn’t contact by phone or that Internet service would be down,” he said. “We take so many things for granted.”

Then Hurricane Sandy hit, and suddenly residents were without Internet service, had trouble charging their phones and just couldn’t get the information as easily as usual.

One thing that could possibly be done, Kurdyla said, is to send radio announcements.

“[In emergency kits], they say to make sure to have a battery-powered radio,” he said. “But did we make announcements through public radio?”

At this point, Kurdyla said, the township has to regroup and figure out its next steps to improve its communication for the future.

And another point would be to determine where the council can fit into the EOC structure, Kurdyla said, so the members can be of service as well.

“We have to look at how we can address it better, and see if we can get the council members involved or get them more information,” he said. “There is a structure in place to address.”

Maybe there are considerations for text messaging announcements or other methods that would still work if service was down, Kurdyla said.

But at this point, Kurdyla said, it is about regrouping and trying to figure out what to do next.

“We should sit down and talk about what we could do better,” he said. “My personal feeling is we never thought the storm would impact us as much as it did utilities-wise and communications-wise.”

“I thought the job that was done was tremendous, but questions have come up,” he added. “When an event is over, we learn from it and try to identify the problems.”

BwtrMom November 19, 2012 at 12:31 PM
I don't feel the job the township did was anything near tremendous. As a resident for 21 years in the Washington Valley area I felt the job they did was practically invisible. We heard & saw nothing. I received information from the county, the state , 101.5 & Patch and only 1 email from the town. The one visible presence they could have made that would have been a help & shown they were out there was to mark the roads so that all the closures could have been navigated. The county sends texts of closures & openings, the town didn't even put up tape, cones or detour signs physically out there.
Mike Umbris November 19, 2012 at 01:15 PM
This article is laughable. Bridgewater is run by a bunch of amateurs. This council continues to disregard the voters in a myriad of ways. Kurdyla and Rose will continue to run the township into the ground. Everyone needs to prepare themselves for higher taxes because its all this Council seems to be effective at.
Mike November 19, 2012 at 01:39 PM
I want more services and less taxation. That's why I voted a straight ticket...
Maribeth Barrett November 19, 2012 at 03:15 PM
My parents live in Warren and they were contacted continuously by the town. Me nothing. My mother was shocked when she heard that. I went 14 days without power. Not sure who failed more my township or JCP&L.
Special K November 19, 2012 at 04:27 PM
Unless cut off completely from phone --or other direct connection with relatives-- not contacting ones relatives immediately, in the circumstances, is the really surprising thing.
charlie November 19, 2012 at 05:12 PM
All respect to Mr Kurdyla but our officials failed big time. Where was the prior disaster recovery and business continuity planning. The response is and was disgraceful by any measure and should be examined / investigated for negligence
stewart resmer November 19, 2012 at 06:15 PM
Perhaps a quick review of the NO votes of council members on some of the past public safety issues in Bridgewater should be considered? It seems from the pattern of NO votes here on matters such as shared resources and emergency responders training that the leadership of Bridgewater has put the public safety at needless risk: Seatbelt awareness program paid for bay a grant. NO License plate readers for Police cars. NO Community Center study paid for by a grant. NO Sidewalks for school bus p/up drop off areas. NO Emergency Services and equipment sharing with Somerset County (pre Sandy). NO Emergency responders incentives for taking classes and attending meetings ($50) pre Sandy. NO These NO votes plus cutting 15 police officers? Sounds like this council was/is penny wise and pound foolish and played fast and loose when it came to budget priorities without regard to public safety.
James Rokosny November 19, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Although the Mayor did try to send out announcements, and post on the website...many did not have power or access to the internet. Two things could have been done: 1. Go on NJ 101.5fm or ask them to make announcements. Many townships did this. 2. Have the police make announcements from their cars. In most neighborhoods, after that storm...neighbors were outside talking to each other, even when they had never before. If one person got info from the police, it would have spread. Write some standard information announcements, tell people you have updates at 10am and 3pm in the same location, and watch how many people show up. Technology is great, but without power it is useless. Talk to people. Put together a plan now. For instance, post something along these lines. "When a disaster occurs, or we all lose power the police will be at these locations at these times with updates." If you have ten to twenty strategic locations, you can make announcesments, or hand out flyers, and people could distribute. But posting on a website or sending email when the emergency is that people have no power, isn't a plan. 3. Lastly, how about a reverse 911 system? Just some thoughts.
Dan O'Leary November 19, 2012 at 08:43 PM
listen, land lines were down, cell phone service was hit or miss, no electric service for nine, ten, eleven days to two weeks, I don't know if the township could have provided better notice under the circumstances of Sandy
James Rokosny November 19, 2012 at 09:27 PM
I got mail on Thursday that week.
stewart resmer November 19, 2012 at 11:07 PM
'The Party Of Stupid' has the council majority, ya got the gvt you deserved.
Bella November 20, 2012 at 02:53 AM
I have used Nixle.com and loved it - was kept well informed via text messages on my phone from neighboring towns. Wish Bridgewater had signed on after Irene - thought they are slow on the up take with this easy to access method of emergency notification.
sharyar November 25, 2012 at 04:08 PM
If he had done his job, then I could have done my job. He needs to push a button and then I will lift a finger and push my botton. And we are going to get together and talk for 2-3 years to see how he can do his job better and then I will see how I can do my job. ... And these are the people who are supposed to be "leading" our township? Seriously? Let me guess, they will dream up a new system, jack up our taxes and nothing to show for it....

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