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Gromack Testifying At Moreland Commission Hearing

Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack will testify at tonight’s hearing about Orange & Rockland’s response to Hurricane Sandy.

 

Clarkstown Supervisor Alex Gromack will deliver testimony tonight on behalf of the town and its residents to the Moreland Commission on Utility Storm Preparation and Response. Gromack will speak about the impact of Hurricane Sandy on Clarkstown at the 6 p.m. public hearing at SUNY Purchase.

In the advance copy of his testimony of Orange & Rockland Utilities’ actions during Hurricane Sandy, Gromack cited shortcomings in communication between O&R and the town and its emergency personnel.

“Communication and reliable information by O&R was abysmal during this past storm, as well as the previous two. While more staff was added so people could speak to a “live” voice, there was a lack of timely and credible information.”

Gromack noted most people were given a standard response that power would be restored within 10 to 15 days. He said very little new information was gained from the daily calls between the utility and officials and the utility representatives assigned to the emergency management center collected information rather than providing it. Gromack recommended staffers should be sent to each town hall to answer calls from hundreds of residents who could not get through to O&R or failed to get any helpful information.

He already submitted a more detailed report with observations and recommendations about O&R’s response to Superstorm Sandy in October 2012 and Hurricane Irene and the October snowstorm of 2011 to Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the New York State Public Service Commission, Moreland Commission, and Clarkstown’s state representatives. In that accounting, Gromack noted 10 major areas of failure including the much-delayed arrival of mutual aid utility crews. One of the positives, he noted was power quickly restored to the police department and town hall, which aided its emergency personnel’s work.

Gromack pointed out there was a poor working relationship between O&R employees directing the storm response and the town’s highway department. He linked that to the closure of 60 town roads for several days after the storm.

A series of almost 20 recommendations included assigning a line crew to work directly with local highway departments so access to critical services such as hospitals can be cleared as soon as possible. Another suggestion was for utilities including Verizon and Cablevision to coordinate and communicate better about downed wires and clearing them.

A state Senate Task Force scheduled a meeting on storm recovery for Friday at the Nanuet Library. 

Editor’s Note: A copy of the supervisor’s testimony and report is attached to this article.

Tom Truth January 25, 2013 at 05:01 PM
Say what you will about Gromack, on this issue he is right on target. Communication is perhaps the greatest help in these storms (short of actually getting power back on). Knowing realistically what is happening helps people make plans on how to deal with the storms aftermath. Communicating with your customers is an art all but lost to utility companies. As to communication with the town, as well as with other agencies doing repairs, O&R has a lot to learn. This is also complicated by outside crews who come to help but have different methods and protocols. With no clear O&R liaisons, it is all too easy to end up having power surges by turning on power at points that may not have been fully cleared by outside crews. The worst was seeing a police department without power for days and working off generators. This was a total failure on the part of the town to have adequate backup and by O&R who could not prioritize this outage.

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