VINELAND — City officials said Tuesday they will try to develop better ways to communicate with residents during emergencies such as the recent storm that devastated the municipality.
The storm knocked out power to more than 21,000 of the Vineland Municipal Electric Utility's almost 25,000 customers, damaged cell towers and disrupted normal telephone service.
City officials said that made it difficult to get out information. Some radio stations on which the city depended for emergency communications could not operate.
Now, officials in the city that suffered an estimated $100 million in damage to public and private properties, said they will consider other methods — including the use of low-tech, battery-operated radios — to communicate.
“We are going to debrief,” City Council President Peter Coccaro said. “We are going to go over things. We’ve never had something of this magnitude happen in the city. If we can make those improvements, they will be made.”
“Maybe we ought to go back to basics,” said City Councilman Louis Cresci. “The communication pathways need to be assessed.”
The storm hit early Saturday morning, causing widespread damage in parts of South Jersey. Cumberland County emergency management officials said it appeared as though this city was the hardest hit municipality in the county. At least 3,000 residents reported damage to their homes, they said.
Most of the communications concerns involved residents who wanted to know when their homes and businesses would regain electric service.
City Municipal Utilities Director Joseph Isabella said many residents wanted the exact time that power would be restored.
“We couldn’t tell them that, not because we didn’t want to,” Isabella said. “We’re saying two, three days. People didn’t want to hear that. They were upset with us.”
Isabella said the city has more than 20 crews — including some from North Jersey and Texas — working to restore power. The task was difficult given the extent of the damage and the difficulty the crews had getting through blocked streets and reaching properties.
“We’ve never seen anything like that,” Isabella said of the damage. “I hope to God we never see anything like it again.”
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