Council reviews town’s emergency storm response performance

By Frances Taylor - Staff Writer
East Hartford - posted Wed., Nov. 23, 2011
East Hartford Housing Authority Director Deborah Bouchard spoke to the council about the impact of the October storm on housing authority residents.
East Hartford Housing Authority Director Deborah Bouchard spoke to the council about the impact of the October storm on housing authority residents.

In the aftermath of the October snow storm, the East Hartford Town Council used its first meeting following election day to review the emergency response.

Mayor Marcia Leclerc praised the response of the emergency services personnel. “I just want to thank the police and fire and the CERT volunteers,” she said. “I'm proud of the positive response and the way were able to pull together all of the agencies.”

During the storm, the town operated shelters and coordinated with Public Works and Connecticut Light & Power to remove debris from the roads and deal with downed power lines. Leclerc said that the mobilization of town emergency series following tropical storm Irene enabled the town to be better prepared when the October storm hit. “We were among the first towns to have 99 percent of power restored when the lights came back on, and that was because of debris management coordination,” she said.

Police Chief John Oates, Tim Bockus, acting director of Public Works and Michael Walsh, of the finance department, also spoke to the council about the emergency response. “The emergency center opened Oct. 29 and closed Nov. 2. During that time, in addition to the storm response, we were still dealing with routine police and fire calls,” Oates said. “The robust response of the CERT [Community Emergency Response Team] was very helpful to us.”

The East Hartford Housing Authority came in for criticism from the Town Council for its response during the storm. The authority has had a range of financial and organizational problems this year, and former assistant director Deborah Bouchard was recently named executive director.

Linda Russo, a council member, criticized the fact that the housing authority did not have an emergency response plan for its housing units, many of which are home to seniors who are infirm. Russo and several other Town Council members visited the Highlands complex during the storm and discovered that there were homebound seniors without working telephones with spoiled food in their refrigerators. “No one from the housing authority had done a check on these residents,” Russo said.

Bouchard acknowledged the problems and said creating an emergency plan would be a priority going forward. “Your comments are noted, and developing an emergency plan will be a priority for us,” Bouchard said.

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