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Weston Boosts Emergency Preparations One Year After Irene

WESTON, Conn. – Thousands of households across the state, Fairfield County and Weston were left without power last year by Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm.

“Irene and the snowstorm were incidents of enormity,” said Joe Miceli, the Weston police officer who is the town’s acting emergency management director. “Entire neighborhoods were down, and we couldn’t access emergency vehicles. We were trying to get power back as quickly as possible, which was another layer of difficulty.”

The majority of outages during the two storms was caused by downed trees, said Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light & Power. As a result, the utility that provides power to most of the state has spent about $100 million this year trimming trees.

More than 809,000 customers lost power after the freak October snowstorm, and Irene knocked out power to more than 700,000. Reports found that the worst-case scenario CL&P had planned for was 100,000 outages.

Connecticut and its utility companies have also established “make-safe crews” that will go in before restoration crews to make sure roads are cleared of trees and live wires, said Scott DeVico, of the state Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

In Weston, a Community Emergency Response team was formed to assist the police. “It’s a group of community volunteers with emergency training who can respond to a large scale incident where our resources are taxed,” Miceli said.

Weston also has established a new town shelter at the high school to replace the shelter at the middle school, which was deficient, he said.

More than 165 municipalities across Connecticut took part in a four-day statewide emergency preparedness drill at the end of July. “Our initial results show that some of the new plans and communications procedures have been implemented successfully," DeVico said.

The event in Weston was “a full rollout of the emergency operating center with over 20 town employees and volunteers participating,” Miceli said. “It was a mock response to a Category 3 hurricane. We established full lines of communication and emergency planning down to ordering food, water and blankets.”

Emergency preparedness is an ongoing process, Gross and DeVico said. Miceli said, “The overall response from town government has been remarkable.”

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