Sandy Post Mortem: The Police 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 review of 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 Police Chief John Cook said that for the police department, dealing with Sandy required extensive planning as well as improvised solutions. With the storm on the way, Cook ensured all hands were on deck with the department, cutting all vacation time and calling in all officers to active duty.
In response to concerns about looting and other crimes during the storm, police cruisers undertook aggressive and proactive patrols throughout the township. Cook said officers made their presence known with lights, especially near stores. The end result, Cook said, was that there was a low amount of criminal activity in Springfield during the storm compared to other towns.
He said that the storm taxed the department’s resources, noting that cones and barricades were in short supply. In addition to taking advantage of County resources, Cook said officers were able to find solutions on the fly.
“There was a tremendous amount of resourcefulness,” Cook told officials. “Nothing came up that prevented us from doing our jobs.”
With power out to traffic lights, officers who were needed elsewhere needed to man intersections and direct traffic. Cook said officers hooked up power generators to lights at critical intersections, cutting down on chaos on the roads. He said that in the future, he would like to have the traffic lights altered to allow easier access for emergency power so that police could simply plug them in.
Like other department heads, Cook said that lack of fuel hindered his staff’s efforts. But once some of the local gas stations started pumping, police had to keep the stations from devolving into chaos.
Interestingly, the township ended up using a gas-powered generator to access the tanks at the Mountain Ave. Shell gas station. The station was barricaded by school buses to prevent overtaxing the single operational pump.
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