Ridgefield Public Safety: Time to prepare for storm season

The National Hurricane Center is predicting a busy storm season in the Atlantic and that means it’s time for Ridgefielders to update their family and business storm plans. At a minimum, the plans should include registration for CT ALERT notifications, stocking up on enough provisions to shelter in place for five days without utilities, and preparation of a customized go-kit for each family member including pets.  

For great information on family and business storm preparation go to www.ridgefieldct.org,  www.ready.gov or http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/hurricane/plan.shtml. It is especially important that residents sign up for CT ALERT — the system used by town emergency officials to keep you informed on all matters during serious emergency or disaster situations. It’s easy. Just go to the town website and click on the CT ALERT icon.

Situation awareness is your most important safety strategy. Keep track of developing weather systems through your favorite news channel. And listen for alerts from Ridgefield Emergency Management. Prepare well in advance. Don’t wait until the last minute to stock up on nonperishable food, water, meds, batteries, and fresh generator fuel. (Avoid the use of candles; use battery operated lanterns instead).

Top off your car fuel too, and don’t forget — the car battery can be used to recharge cell phones and other devices. Be sure you’ve established a phone contact out of the area so that all the members of your local family can check in for accountability.

Develop a wellness-check plan with your neighbors to assure that older or infirm folks understand what is going on and are prepared. Perhaps you can lend a hand.

If the weather forecasters are warning of strong winds, remove or tie down deck furniture, grills and toys that can become airborne missiles. Check the trees around your property within 100 feet of your home. If a tree seems weakened or diseased, it’s a good idea to have it trimmed or removed professionally before the winds push it over onto your home.

Recently, the town has seen a huge increase in the number of home generator purchases. That’s good; however, it is important to inspect and maintain your generator according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Portable generators must be used with care. Always locate the generator outside and away from windows or vent intakes. Understand refueling instructions. Be sure the house main circuit breakers are set to the off position before powering any inside electrical appliance with your generator. (The best solution is to have a generator “switch” installed by a licensed electrician).

After the storm, assume all downed power lines are energized. Typically, severe Ridgefield weather involves an extended electrical utility loss for some or all town neighborhoods.  When a major storm is forecast, First Selectman Rudy Marconi and emergency management personnel meet with Eversource to help plan the response and recovery phases. Depending on the severity of local damage, weather conditions and estimated time for recovery, the Emergency Operations Center may be activated and staffed; warming or cooling stations are established; plans are made for commodities distribution; and town agencies go to work 24/7 to get our community up and running as quickly as possible.

If circumstances dictate, the First Selectman and Emergency Manager may open shelters, especially for elderly and special needs persons. Of course, when shelters open for people, shelters also open for their pets.

The goal of the town’s leaders and public safety personnel always is to keep everyone safe and to restore Ridgefield to normal as soon as possible. One of the ways everyone can help, of course, is to be prepared.

Another way, simple as it sounds, is to report power outages directly to Eversource at 800-286-2000 or report online at www.eversource.com. Make the call even if your neighbors have. Contact numbers count. You can even register to exchange outage related texts with Eversource. Look for details on their website.

With luck, Ridgefield’s hurricane season will be benign; however, the nor’easter and winter storm seasons will follow closely, thereafter and they are usually troublesome. Be careful and be prepared.