Woodbury Operation Preparedness Live Blog: UPDATE - Final Thoughts

Live coverage of Woodbury Operation Preparedness from inside the Woodbury Emergency Services Building.

UPDATE: Final Thoughts – Positives and Negatives of WOP-Charlie 1

Communication between all departments was very strong. The head officials were able to overlap and overlay messages and assignments with relative ease.

Woodbury emergency personnel were also a bright spot in this exercise. Although several different scenarios were thrown at officials, sometimes all at once, every department had a big enough staff of employees and volunteers to address the needs and have a crew at every problem spot.

On the other hand, a glaring deficiency was the town’s lack of generators and shelters.

Ashmore said the only spot in Woodbury set up as a shelter is the Orenaug Fire House, which could hold up to 30 people. After that, Woodbury would have to start shuttling and bussing residents out to surrounding towns, such as armories in Waterbury.

There is only one shelter in town because no schools in Region 14 have generators, if schools possessed generators they could be used as shelters. There are only three generators in the entire town of Woodbury.

Also, Woodbury has three satellite radios, only one that is backed up by a generator, and no satellite phones.

UPDATE 3:15 p.m. – Closing remarks:

As the emergency preparedness exercise came to a close Ashmore said he was happy with the end results of the activity.

“This is a win in my book,” said Ashmore. “I’m ecstatic about the turn out, the participation we had today, the whole deal.”

Ashmore insisted that although the operation was very in depth that his work, and the towns’ work is far form over.

“This is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said. “We have to go back and look at the information we gathered here today, our responses to these problems, and then make sense of it.”

Stomski echoed Ashmore’s remarks, saying the activity showed him a lot.

“This experience was really eye opening for me,” said Stomski. “Just when you think you know mostly everything, this makes you realize there’s still things you may not know.”

Through all of the police, fire and ambulance work that was simulated, Stomski wanted to stress neighbors helping neighbors.

“We can be prepared, but Woodbury residents also have to be willing to help, he said. He urged residents in times of crisis to take care of their neighbors, especially the elderly.

“I think everyone came away with one thing or another today,” said Stomski. “If that one thing can save one life somewhere down the road, then it’s what we’re here for.”

UPDATE 2:00 p.m.
– All parties go over steps to take in terms of government, food, gas stations, elderly residents, banks and more. Things we “may have not of thought about before this,” said Stomski.

Event comes to a close. Complete report coming soon.

UPDATE 1:40 p.m. – Actual test of “Code Red Systems” performed by First Selectman Stomski. Test worked and all parties were notified.

UPDATE 1:25 p.m.
– Selectman decided to close damn on Mill Pond Rd., which flows into the river.  They will also evacuate residential area around damn until crews can inspect the structure. 

Police and fire will alert residents of the evacuation immediately.

Officials say this scenario has actually happened at this damn previously.

UPDATE 1:15 p.m. – Turn to addressing post-storm repercussions.

All parties responded to calls in appropriate times. Time is forwarded to one week after storm hit.

Departments begin to draft their concerns for extended appropriations.

Ashemore urges, “How do we make sure we don’t miss anyone?”

UPDATE 1 p.m.
– Ashmore implemented actual tests of Woodbury Emergency Notification System. All systems worked according to plan and messages were received.

UPDATE 12:35 p.m.
–Health district currently putting together food packages for 400 Woodlake residents.

LaBonnes acquiring back-up generator to preserve food.

Fire and police responding to barn collapse at Three River and child fallen through ice at pond behind LaBonnes.

Questions arise; do we have enough staff to answer all calls? What about injuries on job or people who can’t get in to work in time or because of the storm?

UPDATE 12:20 p.m.
–Problems arising around town.

Water purification problem at Woodlake, health officers need to administer water purification tablets.

Possible roof collapses, police and fire called to certain structures.

Southbury asking for assistance.

All town volunteers called in, meet at Emergency Service Building.

UPDATE 12:10 p.m.
–Unexpected burst of snow headed to area.

Groups just made aware a major squall of snow will hit the area in 30 minutes. Preparations commence.

UPDATE 12:00 p.m.
– Small groups again come together.

Groups discuss staffing, implementation of personal 73, 48, 24 and 12 hours before storm arrives.

Selectman said they would send home all non-essential town employees, allocate funding for additional snow removal, sand and salt.  Scheduled meeting with Building Director, DPW, Police and Fire immediately.

UPDATE 11:30 a.m. – Emergency exercise pauses for brief lunch break.

UPDATE 11:15 a.m.
– Possibility of serious problems with shelters in Woodbury.

“We are very limited in our shelters,” said Stomski. “The first thought was the schools, but they don’t have generators. That’s where I said, were in trouble.”

Ashmore said the only spot in Woodbury to work as a shelter is the Orenaug Fire House, which could hold up to 30 people. After that, we would have to start thinking about shuttling and bussing residents out to surrounding towns, such as armories in Waterbury.

UPDATE 10:55 a.m.
– Discussion of officers to look to in emergency times determined. Public Information Officer, Safety Officer and Liaison Officer needed.

No current Woodbury Public Information Officer. Past public information officer, Charlie Rutledge, past away last year. First Selectman Jerry Stomski filling position right now.

No Safety Officer, Fire Chief Janet Morgan said she would appoint someone from her staff if necessary.

No current Liaison Officer, consensus says Selectman George Hale or Barbara Perkinson would be ideal appointments.

“We’ve got a lot of questions here,” said Ashmore. “Who’s going to be in charge?"

UPDATE 10:25 a.m.
– Fire department just called to actual occurrence on Rt. 6. Some members of Woodbury FD leave command center to answer call.

UPDATE 10:20 a.m.
– Initial Situation announced. A winter storm bearing down on Woodbury that will affect areas from Maine to Virginia with record amounts of moisture in the form of snow, sleet, rain depending where on the belt one falls.

The arctic front will stall over New England and there will be a brief period with a lull in the weather in regards to precipitation hitting the ground creating a one-two punch.

Anticipated initial weather to start Sunday morning at 9 a.m. with temperatures in the low 20’s and snow covering the entire region. Accumulation expected 18”-20” of snow over 48 hours, with the last 24 hours being freezing rain. Wind is not a factor, at 5 mph. A base layer of snow is already on the ground, 10” of snow and 6” of ice.

Current simulation time is Thursday morning, 72 hours before storm will hit.

Jokes hear around the room at how “real” this situation actually is.

“We’ve just lived through something like this,” said Ashmore.

UPDATE 10:05 a.m.
– First major problem detected with Woodbury’s preparedness for a major storm.

The availability of generators was a question brought up by several groups. Ashmore responded saying the town only has three working generators.

“There are by far too few generators in Woodbury,” said Ashmore. “You have to ask yourself, it’s 2011, how did this get passed by.”

Town schools, which serve as town shelters in disasters, do not have generators. Therefore the first place for a shelter would be the Orenaug Fire House, which can hold very few people. There is no generator in the senior center.

CL&P officials expressed concern within their group that Woodbury has three radios and only one is backed up by a generator. The superintendant of CL&P present in the command center called this a “serious problem.” Woodbury also has no satellite phones. 

UPDATE 9:40 a.m.
– Lists of questions passed out to separate groups as to how they would address certain situations. Each group is discussing how they would handle certain occurrences and will then report their decisions.

UPDATE 9:05 a.m. – All parties involved broken into small groups and filling out cards detailing the resources they would bring to the table in the case of an emergency. When process finished first scenario will be unveiled.

UPDATE 8:45 a.m.
- Ashmore goes over Woodbury resources, demographics and topography.

“We’re looking at Woodbury as an island,” said Ashmore. “We don’t have a lot of hospitals, emergency centers in town and there’s a good possibility that outside resources will be unavailable if a major storm hits. We have to look at what we’re going to do for ourselves.”

Went around room for introductions, parties involved in event:
Woodbury Fire, Ambulance, Animal Control, Resident Troopers Office, Community Services, Tax District, CL&P, United Water, Newtown Savings Bank, Woodbury Business Association, LaBonnes, Boy Scouts, Pomperaug Health District Medical Reserve Corps, Selectman’s Office, Town Planner and Town Building Official

UPDATE 8:25 a.m.
- Ashmore talks about the reality of this situation and how much the area has been drilled by snow and ice.

Ashmore lays out agenda for the day.

8 – 9 a.m. – Introduction
9 – 10:30 a.m. – Scenario Play
10:30 – 11 a.m. – Regroup / Re-set
11 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. – Scenario Play
12:30 – 1 p.m. – Regroup / Re-set
1 – 2:30 p.m. – Scenario Play
2:30 – 3 p.m. – Regroup / Re-set
3 – 3:30 p.m. – Debrief

UPDATE 8:10 a.m. - Woodbury Emergency Management Director Randy Ashmore introduces coming events for the day.

Says entire operation will happen inside room, no vehicles will be deployed.

Ashmore said he considered terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, wild fires, earthquakes and tsunamis for possible disasters but settled on a winter ice and snowstorm.

UPDATE 6 a.m. - Woodbury Operation Preparedness will kick off in two hours, at 8 a.m., from the Emergency Services Building, 25 Quassuk Road in Woodbury. Registration begins at 7:30 a.m.

Next update expected upon operation commencement.


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