FREEPORT — Town councilors, officials, and residents came together Nov. 15  to discuss what the town did well during the historic Oct. 30 storm, and what they could do better.

The meeting was called to address issues that the historic storm, which knocked out power to some areas of Freeport for nearly a week, brought up in the town’s handling of emergency situations. Representatives from the police, public works, and fire departments were on hand to discuss their response, the issues they faced, and what could be done better.

“We may well have this situation in the future, and feel that every situation like this is a learning opportunity,” said Council Chair Sarah Tracy. “This is a good opportunity to get some feedback from the public.”

One resident in attendance had more knowledge of the workings of the fire department than most. Darrel Fournier served as the town’s fire chief for 25 years, and formerly headed the Emergency Management Association in the area.

“One thing that should be learned from here is training,” said Fournier. “EMA activities are not a glamorous thing, and they’re easily put on the back burner.”

Training of town staff and personnel should be a yearly occurrence, he said. In addition, an Emergency Operations Center should be established quickly in future emergency situations, and planning should be put in place for communicating with the town.

He added that tapping into the talents of the town’s residents is a good idea.

“I think there’s some citizens that would like to get involved,” said Fournier. “You have a lot of talented people here.”

Another resident, Joyce Veilleux, is part of the Cumberland County Incident Management Assistance team and corroborated a lot of Fournier’s suggestions.

“Training is key,” she said. “It would not be too difficult to take one scenario and one afternoon and run through it.”

She added that communication with residents is key, too, and that the town needs a plan to communicate what issues they’re having and what to do. She was especially concerned by residents removing trees from the road themselves, especially when those trees have powerlines on them.

“Personally, I thank them for removing trees on Lower Flying Point because it meant I could get out, but I think the town needs to tell them, ‘thank you but don’t do it in the future,’” said Veilleux.

“I know what it can do, I’ve seen what it can do, I’ve had to clean up the mess, and I’ve had to go to parents and tell them what happened.”

Chris Wolfe, a resident of Lower Flying Point Road concurred that the town needs a consistent plan, and a method to communicate with residents who don’t have cellphones or internet access. “I do not have a cellphone, so how do I communicate when things were down?”

She added that warm weather was a blessing; if things were colder many residents could have been at higher risk.

“Freeport did have all kinds of things like a place to go, a place to get water, and all this, but how did we know?”

She also complained that lack of signage on roads that were closed made it confusing for people trying to get from one place to another.

“My biggest concern, regarding the fact that there was a tree down … on Flying Point to Brunswick,” said Wolfe. “And it took forever to get a blockade up there.”

Public Works Director Earl Gibson said he plans to increase signage in the future, but also that some people actually complained when signs were put up.

Council members present said they took the information to heart, and will work on formulating a plan. They also asked any residents with issues to make sure and contact them in the future.

To provide comments about storm response, call Peter Joseph, town manager, at 865-4743, Ext. 118, or email [email protected]

 

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