November 20, 2012 —
Andy Boyar said he was pretty well prepared for Hurricane Sandy, but even so, there are always more things that a person can learn when the remnants of a hurricane blow through and knock out power for an extended period of time.
Boyar, who is the supervisor of the Town of Highland, said at the town meeting on November 13, communication is key. He said, “As you can see from the heartache continuing on Long Island, Staten Island and New Jersey, you realize that the most important thing in an event such as this is communication.
"People on Long Island are frustrated because they are not getting any information. When people don’t know what they’re up against they get very stressed and anxious. Even bad news, definitive bad news, is better than no news at all. If you tell people ‘power will be back December 1st,’ that’s better than no news. In Highland, we did a much better job of communicating than in the past. As far as I know, every call made to the town hall or to town officials was returned, and we followed up as far as practical.”
Another thing he learned is to advocate for his residents early. He said, “In many instances, we were the first to reach out to the power companies, and we were sort of first in line,” when it came to passing out the dry ice. He said that did not make Highland popular with some of the other towns, but it served the Highland residents well.
Because the town hall had a generator, the building was able to remain open, and people could stop by for information. A couple of people slept there but, if it were a larger emergency, more cots would be needed. He also said when the lights first went out no one knew if there would be enough fuel for the generator for eight hours or for four days, and that information would be valuable in future events.
In Eldred, the American Legion Ambulance Service building served as a warming and charging station and offered showers and hot meals. Pat Friedrich, the captain of the ambulance corps, said the building was open for 168 hours straight. She said, “We did over 200 showers and we fed over 500 people. We had help from people who just showed up to volunteer. We filled oxygen tanks for residents who had no power and their delivery people couldn’t get them tanks. So our highway guys went, picked them up, we refilled them.”
She said, “We kept somebody’s fish alive, they brought their whole fish tank to us, and the fish survived. All these things are important. The fire department, the highway department, town officials and residents all worked together.”