The following was submitted by the in a press release:
The Portsmouth Economic Development Committee is seeking participants for a new survey about the town of Portsmouth’s public information response to Hurricane Irene.
How do you think the town responded? How well do you think town officials communicated with residents before, during and after Irene passed through? What could have been done differently?
Some residents have criticized the town administration for neglecting to tell residents what was going on, calling for more public announcements using a variety of public media to keep citizens informed during the next storm emergency.
While Portsmouth’s emergency responders all seem to have functioned well, local bloggers have called the town’s public announcements about the storm totally inadequate.
said in a that “From a resident perspective, the key is effective communications about what is going on and what is being planned, along with some advice on what to do and where we can go for more information.”
He had several suggestions to make regarding the town’s public information plan for an emergency: “Before the storm arrives, the town should use the town Web site, as well as social media sites, such as Facebook and Twitter, to send out bulletins about emergency preparation. Sure, not everyone sees these, but many people do and they are all low cost…
"In addition, the town needs a 'Code Red' or 'reverse 911' system in place to auto-call residents about impending emergencies. This has a cost but I'm sure that we could figure out some kind of fundraiser to raise the money. I note that has such a system in place already and potentially could have been used by the town in an emergency.
"In addition, the town needs a central point of leadership/decision making who can decide what and when to send information out. This should be the town administrator or perhaps the Town Council president. We used to have a volunteer emergency manager in Portsmouth, who would be the focal point of emergency planning in town. As the storm approaches, a town spokesperson (the EMA volunteer?) should be in periodic contact with the local news media (including local newspapers such as the Newport Daily News) and especially radio stations, which become very important if power is lost. Almost everyone has a portable radio and our officials could advise everyone which station to listen to for Portsmouth information.
"If an evacuation is deemed necessary, all of the above should be used to tell people the specifics, including the reasons for the evacuations. A couple of local telephone numbers, perhaps manned by other volunteers working at home, should be set up to answer queries from residents.”
What do you think about this issue? If the town were to use Facebook or Twitter feeds to keep residents appraised, would you follow them?