Tuesday, Waterford, along with most other towns in Connecticut, went through a six-hour training administrated by the state where they practiced what they would do to if they faced a Category 3 hurricane.
The exercise was mandated after the state was hit with Tropical Storm Irene last August, leaving many people without power for a week and exposing several weaknesses by towns and Connecticut Light & Power in their storm response. Gov. Dannel Malloy was critical of CL&P, later pressuring president , and ran the drill this week to ensure both the utility company and every town knew what to do in a hurricane.
Waterford is particularly prepared for such events, because Waterford practices its emergency response about every six months, far more regularly than other towns, First Selectman Dan Steward said. The reason is because the town is the home of Millstone Nuclear Power Station, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission requires the town regularly practice its emergency response, he said.
“It was different, because it was a hurricane and not something involving Millstone,” Steward said. “But many of those same protocols still exist, along with the organizational structure.”
Waterford’s Emergency Response
In the drill Tuesday, the town had to respond to a Category 3 hurricane, which would mean winds between 111 to 130 mph. The last time a Category 3 hurricane hit Connecticut was the famed Hurricane of 1938, Steward said.
Once word of a hurricane came, town leaders would meet in Waterford’s , Steward said. The leadership cadre is composed of Steward, Police Chief and Emergency Management Director Murray Pendleton, Superintendent Jerome Belair, Public Works Director Ron Cusano and Director of Fire Services Bruce Miller; although Pendleton is the man in-charge, Steward said.
“Chief is in control,” Steward said. “He knows it, we all know it; everybody knows it.”
The first response was to evacuate the town the day before, and most of the residents would be able to leave on their own, Steward said. However, the town has a list of seniors and handicapped people they would contact and evacuate if necessary, he said.
There were talks about CL&P shutting down the power in some areas before the storm hit, almost to force an evacuation, Steward said. However that is just an idea, he said.
Many people would be able to find places to go, Steward said. The town, joining with East Lyme, Old Lyme and Montville, will provide a shelters at East Lyme Middle School and East Lyme High School that will be able to hold more than 6,000 people, and have beds, showers and meals for all, he said. Additionally, Waterford will have back-up shelters for people to use for charge-up stations, among other things, he said.
After the storm hits, the goal becomes clearing the streets and getting back power while keeping people safe, Steward said. In the drill, CL&P was much more hands-on and seemed to be able to communicate much better than during Irene, he said.
To clear the streets, town workers would work with CL&P workers to move debris off the roads, even using a snow plow to move the debris if necessary, Steward said. The police would be charged with keeping traffic under control, and all 47 Waterford Police Officers would be working shifts, he said.
The town would also provide , which will be delivered to Waterford by the state and supplied by FEMA, Steward said. Utility Commission Chief Engineer Neftali Soto is charged with distributing that supplies at the Public Works Complex, and volunteers would help load the food, ice and water into people's cars, he said.
The goal is to be prepared to deal with people out of power for up to a month, Steward said. Again, thanks to the Millstone drills and an experienced staff, Steward said he felt confident Waterford would handle it as best as it can.
“I think we are as ready as we can be,” Steward said.