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One Year After Irene, Ridgefield Helps You Prepare

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. – Thousands of households across Fairfield County were left without power last year by Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm. Government agencies and utility companies have spent the past year focusing on how to reduce outages if another big storm hits.

“We live in a state that loves our trees,” said Ridgefield Fire Chief Heather Burford. And because Ridgefield’s terrain doesn’t easily allow for underground wiring, making sure that trees are properly maintained is key.

The majority of outages during the two storms was caused by downed trees, said Mitch Gross, spokesman for Connecticut Light and 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 October storm, 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's Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection.

These crews should help speed up power restoration in areas hit by storms, he added. Burford said that the town, along with CL&P, have identified areas that have had issues dealing with trees falling on wires, and focused on keeping those places clear.

Communication has been another priority for CL&P, which has established liaisons with cities and town to share tools and information more quickly.

“A lot of hard work has gone into making sure that we’re prepared to respond to large-scale emergencies,” said Gross "We’ve put our system to the test many times in the past year, and I’m proud to say we’ve been able to demonstrate improved response.”

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.

Preparing residents for any eventual storm is among the top priorities for the Emergency Management team, and Burford wants to ensure that residents can manage on their own. The town is holding extra Community Emergency Response classes, trying to train as many people as possible in how to take care of themselves and others during emergencies.

The ultimate goal, Burford said, would be to ensure residents would have enough supplies to last between five and seven days. “If we don’t have to look after you, we can concentrate on the recovery,” she said.

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