Sandy Post Mortem: Fire Department
Department heads examine their responses to the storm.
The first 90 minutes of the Springfield Township Committee meeting on Tuesday, Nov. were devoted to a Post Mortem on Springfield’s response to Sandy.
The consensus among department heads and officials was that lessons from the previous year’s major disruptive weather events, Irene and the October Snowstorm, where learned and applied, but that additional resources were needed to prepare the township for future storms. The departments all noted that storage and procurement of fuel and generators presented a challenge in the storm and would factor heavily in planning for coming storms.
Springfield Fire Chief James Sanford said that his department prepared for the storm by calling up all firefighters to active duty, canceling vacation time. Preparing for the possibility of flooding similar to Irene, the department procured a number of boats to assist in rescues. While flooding was not an issue, the wind was, knocking power out throughout the township.
Of the 210 Sandy-related emergency calls the fire department responded to, Sanford said that many of the notable ones involved residents’ misguided attempts to deal with lack of heat and power. For example, he said firefighters dealt with residents cooking inside their homes with outdoor charcoal grills. Other residents risked their health by using gas-fueled generators inside their homes or using inappropriate containers to store gasoline—including milk jugs. Other homes created fire hazards by using stovetop burners as heaters.
In addition to responding to those calls, the fire department provided support to other active agencies, Samford said, including providing feeding 100 meals per day to township employees. In addition to food, the fire department offered amenities like showers to employees working the storm.
During the storm, the fire department noticeably increased its social media presence, offering vital safety information and bulletins through nixle, twitter and Facebook. Samford added that emergency responders embraced digital communication internally during the storm, using a Google docs account to coordinate information.
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