All that new technology?
Emergency Management Director Michael Purcaro said he was happy with the results during last week's statewide storm preparedness drill.
Purcaro on Monday gave an informal report on how the town managed itself before during and after the Hurricane of 1938 - the Category 3 test case used in the drill. The Emergency Operations Center was reinvented early this summer to what he called a state-of-the-art facility.
And he said the difference was noticeable.
"The drill was a worthwhile exercise," he said. "We tested our new systems and they worked well. It was an improvement. The operations were different that they were in the past and we had a lot of lessons learned documented in the after-action plan."
Purcaro was referring to late last summer when Hurricane/Tropical Storm Irene hit town and left Vernon without power for just more than a week. That was followed by a freak October snowstorm that left a good chunk of Vernon in the dark for nearly two weeks.
The EOC is now utilizing Town Council laptops to give every department head access to the complete communications system. That system includes big screens displaying direct links to the federal Department of Homeland Security, the EOC's main radio room, the town's GIS mapping system and Connecticut Light & Power.
Purcaro has been billing the system as a no-delay direct link system that makes action instantaneous.
"We have evolved as a town," he said.
He also said the school system's incident alert system worked well during the drill.
He also said the new technology cut down on fatigue.
"No one worked more than 12 hours, which isa chance from several people living at the EOC last year," he said.
Purcaro did have one gripe.
Though the utility had what he called a "polite and professional" representative there, he said, "it was very clear - right off the bat - it's the same CL&P." Town officials and utility representatives had a somewhat tense relationship during the last two storms.
Purcaro said the direct link to the utility, designed to give it constant live updates on damage throughout town, basically remained blank. He said CL&P wanted to use paper documentation, which would force the town to abandon the new map display and revert to the old marker board damage assessment system.
"That is unacceptable," Purcaro said.
He also said he asked the utility how many crews were available 72, 24 and 12 hours before the storm hit and was told each time two line crews and two tree crews were available.
He said he was told the outage period would be 28 to 30 days.
Purcaro said after the storm hit, he was told 40 trucks would be on the way.
"Nothing has changed," he said. "We did get several promotional DVDs, but that's it."
CL&P did not take the scathing comments lightly.
"We are very disappointed to hear those comments in light of the many positive ones we received from state and local officials following the four-day storm restoration exercise," CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross said. "We continue to make significant upgrades to our system and improvements to our Emergency Response Plan that will have a positive impact on our ability to restore power in future storms."
CL&P has embarked on a local tree trimming project and Purcaro said he wants to work with the utility to get the new damage system connected.