As townspeople wade through the last weeks of the long hot summer, it’s easy to forget the discomfort and frustration of last year’s storm season, where a freak snowstorm in October and the wrath of Hurricane Irene combined to create mountains of debris, closed roads, and days without power for almost everyone in the area.
Fire Chief Paul Schleicher and Raymond Cord of the Emergency Management Agency urged residents at Thursday’s selectmen’s meeting to be aware that the hurricane season has in fact begun.
Schleicher recalled selectwoman Mary Steele’s recommendation at the “after-action meeting” following the Hurricane Irene debacle that residents need to take more responsibility for their own welfare. He noted FEMA (the federal emergency management agency) has set up a web site called www.Ready.Gov, and said the site helps people make individual plans in case of disaster.
Schleicher said the site has suggestions on survival kits, how to provide for pets, and even plan for the future of a storm-stricken business.
“There is a two-page check list,” he said. “Fill your bathtubs with water before an event.” He added a plentiful supply of water, like a bathtub, provides for flushing toilets and other ordinary needs over a period of time when the water supply and electricity could be cut off.
He recalled during the storm the fire department had numerous requests for generators, many for people who had medical needs that required power. The Chief noted the town has a small number of generators available, and said if residents are dependent on power for critical needs, they should consider purchasing a generator for the household.
“We can’t be the principal source of backups,” he said. Generators can also be used to power pumps, another constant request the department receives.
He did, however, recommend a source of power be worked out for the senior housing project on West Main Street, where numerous elderly people were isolated without power after the hurricane.
“We’ve been very lucky not to have any outages in the winter – they are 100 percent electric heat there,” he said.
Cord also reminded people that FEMA has a booklet on line called “Are You Ready?” that is available one per address.
He said he is working with the Red Cross on making sure regional shelter space is available to anyone from Norton who needs it. Because of the cost of staffing a town shelter, that option would only be available for a local event – regional shelters will be available at nearby locations for universal events like storms or earthquakes.
Selectman Bob Kimball said the town would be well advised not to wait until tomorrow to tackle preparedness. “We could have storms coming through tomorrow,” he said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration just this Thursday revised its predictions of named storms, saying between 12 to 17 “named storms” are expected nationwide during the 2012 hurricane season, with three or four of those escalating into full blown hurricanes. The most recent predictions reflect a 35 percent increase in the normal number of hurricanes, according to CNN’s website.
Schleicher and Cord will be at a selectmen’s meeting in September, National Preparedness Month. At that time, the town will also honor Norton police officer Charles Turcotte, who rescued an 18-year-old from a flaming car on Thursday morning.
Norton Police Department will also be utilizing the MyPD app to stay connected with the community.