State and local officials concluded a two-day emergency preparedness drill with utility companies Monday to practice responding to natural disasters like hurricanes.
One hundred and sixty-two of the state’s 169 towns participated in the drill, which simulated the aftermath of a Category 1 hurricane. The drill also included the Connecticut’s two Native American tribes and 18 different hospitals.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said the drill tested the planning and communication capabilities of the state in an emergency situation. The exercise assumed the storm would knock out power to 70 percent of the state’s electricity customers, which would take an estimated nine to 14 days to restore. He said the drill was designed to impact the entire state.
“Storms and other emergencies are inevitable but the more we all work together, the more we can limit the impact of those disasters with aid reaching those most in need of help, ensuring that roads, schools, and businesses are reopened more quickly and help communities return to normal soon than they otherwise would,” Malloy said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts up to 13 named storms, of which six will become hurricanes, and at least two are expected to be major hurricanes.
“We could have a more robust season or a less robust season, but what we’re doing in Connecticut is what we said we would do and that is to practice, practice, practice to be ready,” he said.
The recent drill was the third such exercise the state has conducted in as many years. It is a policy adopted after a series of major storms caused long-term power outages and highlighted communication problems between towns and the state’s two electric utility companies, Connecticut Light and Power and United Illuminating. Last year’s drill simulated a severe ice storm in western Connecticut.
“There’s no doubt that we’re better prepared,” Malloy said, adding that the three drills have played a role in that preparedness as has additional work by the utility companies. He said real-world experience with major storms also has helped.
“Suffice it to say that people having been beaten up by five different natural disaster declarations are, I think, responding far better than they would otherwise,” he said.
According to the Emergency Services and Public Protection Department, every town in the state participated in this year’s event except Bridgewater, Bethlehem, Canaan, Columbia, Franklin, Hampton, New Milford, and Weston. The town of Cromwell also did not participate, but the department noted that Cromwell was hosting the Traveler’s Championship this weekend.
Betsy Gara, executive director of the Connecticut Council of Small Towns, said the drill serves as good practice for the state’s municipal leaders.
Gara said coordinated disaster response helps to prioritize efforts like clearing important access roads first and quickly restoring power to local hospitals, fire departments and police stations. She said it also helps local leaders keep their residents updated.
“When storms hit, residents look to their municipal leaders for help and for information. So clear channels of communication are absolutely vital, particularly during a response effort of this magnitude,” she said.