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Mayor: Communication Suffered After Sandy

Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo releases a statement Monday after the borough is almost fully restored with power.

The following is a statement released to the media from Hopatcong Mayor Sylvia Petillo on Monday afternoon:

"As of today, the Borough of Hopatcong is almost 100% restored. We can only imagine the frustration and anger the residents remaining without power are experiencing. JCP&L expects the rest of the Borough to be restored shortly.

The level of damage from Hurricane Sandy greatly surpassed Hurricane Irene of 2011 and the October 2011 Blizzard. Our efforts will continue as there is still much work to be done around the Borough, clearing trees, poles and debris from roads and property.

We continue to question our utilities and seek the answers as to why communications was poor and inaccurate and why power restoration took so long. We are in contact with the County and State officials demanding action. We are speaking with the schools that will be open Tuesday except for the high school which will open Wednesday.

We have learned much from this devastating experience. The performance and response from our DPW, Police, Emergency Management Staff, Fire Department Volunteers, CERT Volunteers, Dispatchers, Ambulance Squad, School Officials, Teachers and all Support Staff has been exceptional.

Where we were lacking or fell short was in our ability to communicate our actions, details and responses to the public. Our Borough internet and website were down for 10 days creating difficulties and challenges in communications, while Smartphone technology was our only access to social media.

Reverse 911 was down as was resident’s ability to receive calls. Public radio contact was hit or miss. The Herald and Alternative Press were contacted but information was slow, inaccurately reported and outdated as soon as printed.

We have already started looking at improving our social media and other means of communicating that will improve our abilities to communicate promptly, accurately and to a greater number of our residents."

Rob Bond November 13, 2012 at 02:49 AM
Regarding communications in a Emergency/Disaster situation, it is essential to locate critical infrastructure offsite (or in a harden, highly redundant local site - an expensive option). This is Emergency/Disaster Management "101". So for instance the emergency notification/reverse 911 system would typically be located offsite with a hosting company, which provides data center redundancy as part of its service (i.e., redundant power, redundant hardware, etc). I am not sure the type of solution the Borough currently has, but it clearly needs to be re-assessed.
Brian November 13, 2012 at 02:59 AM
I am a middle aged male, so I have no use for "Social Media". The only way ANYONE could get online was with a smartphone, I doubt that a majority of the households in town have a smartphone, especially the elderly. Why couldn't town use the schools reverse 911 system. That worked fine the entire 13 days MOST of the town was out of power. Even though I was unable to receive the calls at home, I used my cell to log into my voicemail to get messages from the schools. In a previous article in the Patch, they mayor stated that the Fire Department was going around town, knocking on doors to check on people. Either myself or my wife were home for the duration of the outage, and no one came to either my house, my neighbors' houses, or anyone that I spoke to. I would love to hear from others to see if they received a visit from the FD, or if that claim is more "less than accurate" information. Now that almost everyone has power, it is amazing how much information the mayor is NOW able to disseminate through the Patch. Active Crisis = No Information... Crisis Over = Information Overload
Brian November 13, 2012 at 03:03 AM
one more thing... the mayor NOW states that they are "demanding action", I appreciate the hollow gesture, but the time to "demand action" is during the crisis, not after.
Karen Mathison November 13, 2012 at 03:59 AM
I know the Borough Building had Communication with the people as did PD with listing of roads open. Does she know her way to that building? Very Sad attempt at reaching out to her people. There should never be a "Conflict of Obligations" when People Vote You in a Position. Your Obligation is to find out what All Your People Need! Including the ones at their homes Braving the Cold with No Power.
Resident of Hopatcong November 13, 2012 at 04:59 AM
I read a lot of "we", blame shifting and excuses. I'd have more respect if she acknowledged "she" dropped tha ball instead of trying to deflect. Simply not good enough.
STATE PARK November 13, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Mayor you blew it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! HPD is on a generator it is located in back of town hall building so reverse 911 and everything should be working or your employees never check to see if system is working (which should be done monthly).
Lilacs November 13, 2012 at 11:52 AM
Funny how the superintendent of schools, PATCH, and our police department were able to reach out to us regardless of all the communication obstacles. No reason why you couldn't have done this too mayor. Shame, shame!
Lilacs November 13, 2012 at 12:03 PM
And another thing.... You were able to get us an update on BED BUGS.... Why couldn't you use the same line of communication to update us on the power outage???
Frazure November 13, 2012 at 12:13 PM
Posted on the Landing PathMark bulletin board I found a typed hard copy 2 page update letter from the Roxbury Twp. mayor to the residents. I'm sure it was posted in many other frequented locations throughout the township. Low tech, but highly effective in the absence of other methods of communication. Mayor Petillo.....this was something simple that could have been done in Hopatcong, BUT wasn't. The HPD web site was the only reliable source of local information, BUT ONLY TO THOSE who had smart phones with a reliable carrier. The mayor/council failed the residents with their extremely poor communication efforts.
Simply Wondering November 13, 2012 at 12:33 PM
Thank You Rich!
Alan J November 13, 2012 at 01:43 PM
Are you kidding? A leader is one who takes charge of the matter in ones own hands, give out the proper commands to be carried out, and continue to do so, NOT SIT BACK ! If such can not do so, they should be pulled from such a holding position, and mext in line take over. So, in short, cant handle the job, then STEP DOWN NOW!!!
Alan J November 13, 2012 at 01:48 PM
Shoyld have used JCP&L's payoff of $400,000 last year, for a better communication system !!!!!!
CkM November 13, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Your right Rich Smith...The Mayor should be looking for ways to improve her ability to deal with the next incident that heads her way. Might I suggest she purchase an air card for her laptop, an IPad with 3G, or a hotspot device from Verizon. Then she wont be able to blame her lack of communication on the fact that the Borough internet was down...We probably need a Mayor that is a bit more technologically savvy in addition to one who is a bit more on the ball.
Joseph Buongiorno November 13, 2012 at 03:24 PM
Does not anyone understand that when the utility poles come down ALL services are interupted. You could have a hot spot in every home, and there would still be no service. What do you think all those wires on the poles are? If the poles snap and the wires are damaged, there is no interenet, phone or power. Most people are hard wired. If you happen to have a laptop with a wireless card than you can get access, but only for as long as your battery has power. after that, you are in the "dark" Also, the reality is that municipallities have no control over utilities. That is a state function and we all are just along for the ride. So if you want to vent, send an e-mail to the governor and urge him to conduct an investigation of the response by the utilities just like New York is going to do. Only trenton can fix the issue, but I doubt even they have the answers. We expierienced a storm of a magnitude that has never been wittnessed before. How does one prepare for that?
Alan J November 13, 2012 at 03:37 PM
Well put on FAILED, Graig !
Alan J November 13, 2012 at 03:44 PM
Ways to IMPROVE? She has had the past 5 years to do that ! FAILURE !!!!!!
Alan J November 13, 2012 at 03:49 PM
Maybe IMPROVE, her income, that about it! Jcp&l must go along with her as mayor. This town cant take a hit like this again !
Hnj23 November 13, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Not sure how many Hopatcong residents use Optimum for their phone service, however they have an option for free call forwarding during power or cable outages. For the 2 weeks our power was out calls to my home phone automatically transferred to my cell.
Maryann Edwards November 13, 2012 at 04:46 PM
I agree with this statement, I couldn't have said it better myself!
Maryann Edwards November 13, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I agree, I spoke with the mayor during this crisis and she told me that JCP&L were in town and working 24 hours a day to restore our power. I am sure that I was not the only resident who told her that there was no one working on the problem and that the same trees were still blocking road the same roads and the same wires were still in the roads and there was no sight of one JCP&L truck or the sound of chain saws for days after this storm. She just chose to ignore the people who put her into office and listen to the lies of the power company. She should have had someone checking out these phones call from day one then maybe she would have seen that nothing was being done. But it was okay because she had her power!
I love Hopatcong November 13, 2012 at 06:08 PM
Graig Berkowitz - You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant. But how could you know that?
STATE PARK November 13, 2012 at 06:39 PM
You have to remember the Mayor of these small towns are jokes they are part time people who take on the job for the power. A MAYOR is a person like in New York Bloomburg who is in action 24/7/365 that's a Mayor not someone who has a full time job and moon lights as a mayor so with that said that answers any question on WHERE WAS THE MAYOR for the storm?
JJ Shaka November 13, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Not in my neighborhood! Power went out, so did the phones.
JJ Shaka November 13, 2012 at 07:59 PM
A real IT professional would know how to lookup the WHOIS for a domain and see that hopatcong.org is hosted by Godaddy in Scottsdale, AZ.
John Pezzino November 14, 2012 at 01:56 AM
I’ve just read some very harsh comments about mayor Petillo’s handling of hurricane sandy. All I can say is MING! The storm uprooted some tough critics; it saddens me that with all her hard work and love she displayed during this disaster, there are folks that just want to focus on the negatives. With a disaster of this magnitude, and the amount of people involved with the clean up, restoration of services, and the caring of our residence, there is bound to be glitches. I personally think she did a great job and I would like to take this opportunity to thank her. What I witnessed was a mayor working hard, being in the midst of the disaster, being very visible and accessible and very concerned about our comfort and well being. Constructive comments are always welcome, if someone has a suggestion to bring improvements for the future, great, but attacking a person with insults that gave us her all, is just plan wrong. Again may I say thank you Mayor Petillo.
The Watcher November 14, 2012 at 02:27 AM
@I love Hopatcong-- apparently YOU are!
April Carhuff-Manning November 14, 2012 at 06:32 AM
I'm with you John Pezzino....I felt great about the Mayor's communication via local radio stations...I spent hours sitting in my car to keep warm and listen to the radio station from Hackettstown, 1015, and also 103.7 from Newton I think....Our Mayor gave thorough, concise daily reports...There was no comparing her reports to the reports of the few mayors who came on the radio...I just don't know what else could have been done to update the people...We had no power, which means no tv, no internet, and in some cases, no phone....Short of the Mayor visiting each household on a daily basis, there was no other way to communicate...So get over it people, and move on....I applaud your efforts Mayor Petillo...I say, "Well done."
Frazure November 14, 2012 at 11:23 AM
Police/EMT/Fire personnel are highly trained in disaster/emergency procedure and deal with it on varying degrees every day. This was simply new territory for an untrained mayor and council. All the technology in the world wouldn't help those residents in town who are not technically savvy or those who choose not to complicate their lives with a lot of technical gadgetry. This was a learning experience for Ms. Petillo and the council that they will hopefully take advantage of. When technology fails, a printed communication flier posted regularly at open local merchants, the shelter and other public buildings would have worked for the short term.
Maryann Edwards November 14, 2012 at 01:40 PM
This storm didn't uproot tough critics, it made us realize that our mayor was not ready to deal with this kind of disaster. She should have been more proactive from the very beginning of this. Instead she fed us the same fiction that JCP&L was telling her. As all the towns around us were restored, we were still in the dark, and having a hard time getting any information. Our mayor should have listened to us when we were calling her and telling her that no one was working in Hopatcong. She could have had someone come out to check on what we were telling her instead she just kept giving us the same old story about how JCP&L was working around the clock to restore our power. She failed us when we needed her the most, she did not step up and seek the truth until over a week after the storm hit. She should have been on top of this situation from the very beginning, that is what as good elected official would and should have done. Yes, I do feel that Mayor Petillo failed us!
john j November 14, 2012 at 11:40 PM
am sure many of us have good suggestions for improvemnt of handling any future similar situations, where may these suggestions be sent?


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