While Connecticut has made great strides in emergency preparedness in the last few years — weathering blizzards, floods, hurricanes, and mass murder — the state now plans to improve procedures to reach people outside the traditional channels, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy told an Emergency Management Symposium on Tuesday.
“We’ve learned a lot, come a long way and made a lot of progress from just a few years ago,” he told the crowd at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Cromwell at the conference organized by the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities. “But we must always look for ways to improve our emergency responsiveness. We want to focus on communication before, during and after [the event], especially for our elderly and non-English speakers. We’re trying to ensure the state responds to people’s needs.”
Malloy created the Emergency Communications Taskforce, which will be responsible for reviewing how the state government communicates with all residents and especially those with special needs. Malloy said he is expecting a report back from the task force before the height of the state’s hurricane season, which begins in mid-August.
This effort is partly in response to a federal court decision related to New York City’s functional needs planning as part of its emergency preparedness procedures. The court decision indicated that functional needs — serving people with disabilities who may not have access to traditional means of communication and transportation — must be integrated throughout emergency preparedness plans.
The focus of this year’s statewide annual preparedness exercise in June, a response to a hurricane, will be functional needs and mass care, Malloy noted.
The drills are critical to helping the state be better prepared to respond to any disasters, he noted. During Superstorm Sandy, Malloy said he was notified that waters of Long Island Sound were rising dramatically in one area and emergency personnel were able to decide which residents should evacuate and which should stay put.
The spirit of cooperation was apparent during other crises, such as the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. Malloy said he recalled attending a dinner at the Crowne Plaza for the state’s funeral home directors, to thank them for working together to ensure services for victims could be held in a timely manner.
Since taking office, the state has had five Presidential Disaster Declarations to help it recover from major storms, including Hurricane Irene, Superstorm Sandy and the 2013 blizzard, Malloy noted. Thanks in part to the collective effort of residents and officials, the state received more than $373 million in federal disaster assistance after Superstorm Sandy. State officials also have worked to ensure blocked roads are open more quickly after a disaster and legislation has been passed to make utilities more accountable after an outage.