Andover holds up well after Irene

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Andover - posted Wed., Sep. 7, 2011
Tyler Balula demonstrates the preparation of an MRE (meal, ready-to-eat), while Karen Zito looks on. Photos by Melanie Savage.
Tyler Balula demonstrates the preparation of an MRE (meal, ready-to-eat), while Karen Zito looks on. Photos by Melanie Savage.

Despite experiencing one of the slower electric restoration times within the state, the town of Andover seemed to be holding up well on the afternoon of Sept. 3, nearly one week after tropical storm Irene passed through the area. Members of CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) and other volunteers, handing out water and other essentials from the town garage on Long Hill Road, reported that residents, for the most part, were coping well. “I’m pretty pleased with the preparedness and response of our residents,” said Andover Emergency Management Coordinator and CERT team leader and trainer, Sylvia Dake.

As of 2:36 p.m. on Sept. 3, 33 percent of Andover was still without power, according to the Connecticut Light & Power website. Volunteer Dianne Grenier, returning from escorting a Red Cross team through town, reported that there was some anger among residents. “Some of them are saying, ‘We pay as much as other people, why is it taking so long?’” said Grenier.

The Red Cross team, hailing from Gainesville, Ga., was traveling through areas still lacking power. Though CERT began distributing supplies on the Wednesday after the storm, some folks hadn’t heard that supplies were available. “If you don’t have power, don’t have Internet, don’t have telephone, don’t have a battery-operated radio, how are you going to know?” said Grenier. “We’ve done our very best to let folks know that we have supplies, but for some people, [the Red Cross] was the first help they’d seen since the storm.”

Andover initially sent the town dump truck and a flatbed truck to pick up FEMA supplies at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, but found that they had to make multiple trips. For their second pick-up, Andover was assisted by the Capitol Region Council of Governments, which made the transfer via 18-wheeler. “There has been a lot of support from various agencies throughout the state,” said Dake. “And there has been excellent volunteer support from the town.” Supplies provided by FEMA included bottled water and MREs (meals, ready-to-eat, the same meals provided to the U.S. military). The Red Cross provided additional supplies, including sandwiches, chips and jars of baby food.

CERT’s role, said Dake, is to “pick up the slack and open the shelter” during an emergency. “Every situation is different, so we try to be prepared for whatever,” said Dake. CERT works in coordination with the town fire department, the selectmen’s office, and the resident state trooper. “We all work together during emergencies,” said Dake.

Andover’s CERT team consists of adults who work in conjunction with a team of students from RHAM, primarily members of the video club, under the supervision of Paul Bancroft. Dake said the RHAM students are particularly great to work with. “Training them was a pleasure,” she said. “They’re really great kids.”

Though there was clearly some dissatisfaction among residents regarding the response time of CL & P, volunteers at Saturday’s distribution seemed reluctant to criticize. Dake did express the hope that the company would consider burying electrical wires. “At least then you’d prevent such widespread outages in the future,” she said.

Looking toward the future, Dake encouraged residents to be prepared for the possibility of another catastrophic event. “Find out what services are available,” she said. Go to ready.gov for information regarding disaster preparedness.

The Andover CERT team is also looking to add new members. “We typically hold classes in the fall,” said Dake. Those interested in training should contact Town Clerk Carol Lee at 860-742-7305.


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