14 Sep 2014
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Did Village Communicate Well During Sandy?

Resident suggests village utilize Patch during next emergency to update its residents.

Did Village Communicate Well During Sandy?
While most of Garden City was without power during Hurricane Sandy, village auditor Jim Olivo was happy to report that village hall remained opened during and after the storm.

"During the time period village hall was operational, the entire time we did not have to go to emergency generator," he said, adding the generator has been tested and would have undoubtedly kicked on and kept the village's technology working.

"Our technology was vital in this particular instance," he said. "It was one of the ways we were able to communicate and coordinate ... relocating the trouble desk to the police department was handled through our own system and performed admirably. We look to improve our communications to the public but we were there for the public through the storm."

Many residents flocked to village hall to charge electronic devices, including medical devices, or to simply get warm. "We did handle a lot of comments and compliants about the power situation," Olivo told trustees. "And hopefully the residents were happy that when they left even though we couldn't do very much with LIPA we at least gave them a place to vent a little bit of their frustrations. It was a very trying time but the staff was there the whole time and I'm proud of them."

Village clerk Brian Ridgway said the Garden City website's update page received 8,962 hits between Oct. 28 and Nov. 15. "Of that 52 percent, or 4,700 people, went to the update page," he said.

Fifteen percent visited the Garden City school district page via the village site, which the village was moderating since the district's servers were down during and after the storm.

"The website was up during the entire week, during the entire storm process it was updated once or twice a day with whatever information we could provide and it was obviously being looked at," Ridgway said. "I'm sure it was a good thing for the community to have that type of information available."

Trustee Dennis Donnelly said some people felt the village board and mayor could have communicated better with its constituents.

"If I heard any complaints from people it's been one of communication," he said. "The people felt that we should've communicated better with them. So I would propose that we as a village in the next few months try a campaign where we ask people for their cell phone numbers because we do have a Swiftreach system. Unfortunately the system is based on hard-wired telephone lines at the moment."

Ridgway said residents are asked to put in their primary phone number and three additional phone numbers, which are normally the cell phone numbers of family members.

"The system will try the primary number [first]," he explained. "If it gets through it will stop. If it doesn't get through - whether the phone wasn't answered or an answering machine picks up - it will try the secondary phone number and the sequence will continue."

Donnelly added, "We're not going to call you to tell you there's a concert at the gazebo but if there is an emergency and you want us to get in touch with you give us the number and we will be happy to do that."

East resident Judy Courtney suggested the village use Garden City Patch as a ways to communicate with residents during the next emergency.

"The communication piece to me was probably the biggest issue," she said. "I would also suggest the possibility of utilizing the Patch as a regular communication outlet in these sorts of situations ... Bob [Schoelle] you could do an every-other-day update on the Patch or something like that if we need it."

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