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Sandy Post Mortem: Office of Emergency Management

Township employees look at what worked and what fell short during the tropical storm and look towards the future.

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 Office of Emergency Management Coordinator Scott Seidel garnered praise from his fellow presenters for his performance during Sandy. He said that while his office hustled to prepare for the storm, gathering supplies and staffing the Office of Emergency Management to a 24-hour capacity, they encountered difficulties with outside agencies and in their ability to offer shelter and amenities to disaster victims.

Seidel said that while township volunteers in the Auxiliary Police and CERT were invaluable during the storm, the Red Cross did not offer significant support. The Red Cross had been designated as the managers of the township shelters, but instead, CERT members Jim and Karen Bonacorda took charge of the shelters.

“The Red Cross let us down,” Township Committee member Rich Huber noted. “If it wasn’t for [Springfield volunteers] we’d be in real trouble.”

Seidel was somewhat more charitable in judging the Red Cross, saying that in regional disasters effecting more than one town, the organization can become stretched thin. He said that the Red Cross did eventually send a member to the Springfield shelter but that the arrival was too late to be effective and that a key lesson for the town is learning to be less reliant on outside agencies for assistance.

Seidel noted that the shelters themselves were an issue. Chisholm, originally designated as the shelter, had scattered power outages, with lights on in some rooms but off in some critical places, like the bathrooms. Sarah Bailey Center was powered by a smaller generator, which Seidel noted, was not optimal.

Seidel said that the lack of generators and fuel was a major issue during Sandy. He said that emergency response required 250 gallons of fuel per day and suggested that four-five days worth of diesel fuel be stored at key facilities along with suitable power generators. In addition, he said that the town needed to fix shelter locations and stock the designated shelters with supplies, including food, cots and blankets.

While he didn’t dismiss the need for generators in an emergency, Springfield Mayor Ziad Shehady questioned the need to buy generators when other ways to procure them might be explored.

“Do we need to buy generators and let them depreciate or find a way to rent them,” Shehady asked.

Philly December 03, 2012 at 01:45 PM
“The Red Cross let us down,” Township Committee member Rich Huber noted. “If it wasn’t for [Springfield volunteers] we’d be in real trouble.” Really Mr. Huber? In addition to the Red Cross, you, Mr. Amlen and Mr. Bergen let us down. Where were our Democratic leaders in the days after this storm? The three of you never showed your face at the shelters and were noticeably absent while the rest of the Township Committee members and Township employees were distributing information to fellow residents. At least the Red Cross can say they had other communities to service. I am wondering what was your excuse?
Doug W December 03, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Am I reading this correctly? Mr. Huber criticizes the Red Cross when he himself did NOTHING to help us. Oh boy.
BART FRAENKEL December 03, 2012 at 02:31 PM
Scott Seidel and Wally Schultz, as well as the othe members of OEM, the auxillary police, the PD, FD, and DPW employees, as well as everyone who volunteered, all deserve our appreciation for their hard work and the long hours spent protecting and helping our town.
Jim Shamrock December 03, 2012 at 03:00 PM
I agree with Mr. Fraenkel.........They all did a great job and were could be found protecting people from down wires, trees, poles, smell of gas, etc. I wish I had the name of one Auxiliary Policeman that I saw so often we would wave to each other and exchange immediate emergency concerns and he would be at that location with the OEM and Springfield Police and FD immediately......
Margaret Bandrowski December 03, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Mr. Huber and Mr. Amlen were both present at the Chisholm shelter several times and both spent the night there as volunteers. Mr. Barnett also spent time at the Chisholm center on several occasions, and I was there for 4 days from about 8 or 9 in the morning until 9 or 10 at night. We also distributed bulletins to residents. Please do not be quite so quick to criticize without having all the facts.
Philly December 03, 2012 at 06:50 PM
Several times? Is that once or twice? I can tell you that Huber and Amlen did not show up at Chisholm until the end of the crisis when most of the hardship had passed. Mr. Bergen didn't show his face at all. Even you didn't show up until after the first week. How do I know this? Because I was there. And the only bulletins distributed by Mr. Amlen were on election day reminding people to vote.
B Freeman December 03, 2012 at 07:11 PM
To little to late by them and you Bandrowski....you only should your face after the election was over. A resident guilted them to showing up and doing something. Same for you..too little to late. Amlen only came out of hiding after the he wrote the that incredibly stupid email criticizing the mayor during a crisis. He should have spent more time in town helping out.You distributed the mayors bulletins..so nice of you. All four of you are about the most worthless people in town.
B Freeman December 03, 2012 at 07:13 PM
Yes I agree Mr. Fraenkal, they deserve our appreciation and so does the mayor working side by side with them throughtout the crisis.
Elizabeth December 03, 2012 at 08:20 PM
All this aside, I am very grateful for the town or whoever it was that gave out ice. It saved a lot of expense for us to get fresh ice every other day, preserving not all, but some of what was in our freezer. Now we are so sick of chicken, Thanksgiving was like "Not again!" Very grateful and it was nice to meet the Mayor at the Chisim center when we charged cell phones etc. And that's another thing. Being able to charge cell phones and Laptops was a huge help as well. Like most everyone, because of Verizon FIOS my home phone only worked 3 hours after the power went out. Big help that huge battery on my wall is... Thank you Town of Springfield for charging centers and especially the ice. Dry ice would have made less a mess, but let's not go there! :)
BART FRAENKEL December 03, 2012 at 11:34 PM
If a person wants to criticize others at least they should post their full name, otherwise the readers should give zero credibilty to their posts.
Shane Ronan December 04, 2012 at 12:30 AM
Don't forget us folks over at the First Aid Squad and the Springfield CERT Team. Also Mr. Huber did come to the shelter on Sunday to check in on how things were progressing, however Mr. Shehady, Mr. Krauss and Mr. Fernandez were both there Sunday and Monday. No other member of the Township Committee nor potential member of the township committee (or County Freeholder) came out to check on us or the victims of the storm at the Shelter. I can't speak for who was at the shelter (either location) later in the week once the emergency passed, as I was busy assisting OEM and working to provide ongoing Emergency Medical support to the town.
Shane Ronan December 04, 2012 at 12:34 AM
Also, for the record and the recognition of the members, the Springfield First Aid Squad manned and operated the initial shelter at the Chisholm building during the actual storm.
BART FRAENKEL December 04, 2012 at 01:11 AM
Absolutely they also deserve our appreciation. I apologize for the omission of the FAS and CERT Team.
Elizabeth December 04, 2012 at 02:33 AM
Yes, thank you Springfield's First Aid Squad for allowing us to charge our phones etc. and keeping us warm. You were all so gracious and nice and helpful. Even had 'foamy' more comfortable chairs! We should give those chairs to the Chisholm building. OUCH! Still smarting from those hard seats! The folks at the Church Mall by the Presbyterian Church deserves thanks as well. I went there one day and charged some things and had lovely conversations with my neighbors who I didn't even know! They gave out ice there as well. Everyone was so nice and helpful. I was surprised and delighted to get to know my neighbors who I probably see at the Shoprite etc. but didn't even know. We all did a lot of talking while charging our phones. It was all in all an interesting experience. One that I am glad is over and never will happen again. But if it does, we will all be a bit wiser and now know we can count on people to help us as we help each other. Thanks again to the folks who helped push my car to the gas station by Scotties when I ran out of gas. This storm brought out the best in everyone.
Elizabeth December 04, 2012 at 02:35 AM
They did? Oh that was nice of them! Thank you! I didn't even know that...
Elizabeth December 04, 2012 at 02:43 AM
Why does everyone always feel compelled to focus on the negative? I met our Mayor and was very impressed by his assertive yet calm demeanor. He is a lot younger than you would expect a town Mayor to be, but what he lacked in age he more than made up for in people skills and caring. I met him at the Chisholm Center and he not only shook our hands, he pulled up a chair and chatted with us. Very impressive young man who obviously is going places. We can all say we knew him when!
Kari December 04, 2012 at 07:50 AM
After Katrina, I remember thinking "that would never happen up north". Well, there are still people in Staten Island and Long Island who do not have power, if they even still have their homes. I learned a lot about how to survive in this kind of emergency, and I hope we all did. As we went without power and heat for two weeks, I kept a battery operated radio tuned to 1010 WINS and I remember thinking "See? No one cares..." I came to realize that you can't expect or count on help. You had better figure it out for yourselves as best you can. For those who did help, THANK YOU, but for me, the whole experience left me scarred and feeling like no matter what the politicians (at every level, from the President to the Governor to local politicians) say, none of it matters. They say what they need to get elected.

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