|Contact: Steve Jensen
|January 11, 2012|
GOV. MALLOY ANNOUNCES STORM DISASTER
PREPAREDNESS & RECOVERY INITIATIVES
New Initiatives Will Lead to Tougher Standards for Utilities, Improved Communication and Better Training for State and Local Officials and Utilities
(HARTFORD, CT) - Governor Dannel P. Malloy today announced a package of storm preparedness and recovery initiatives to enhance and augment the ability of the state, municipalities and its partners to better prepare for and respond to natural disasters and intense weather situations.
The Governor's initiatives include both legislative proposals in addition to changes to administrative procedures and are concentrated on improving operations in four individual policy areas: performance; management and communications; preparedness and training; and infrastructure strengthening. The Governor announced the recommendations in Simsbury, an area of the state that was particularly impacted by the October Nor'easter, with Lieutenant Governor Nancy Wyman and First Selectman Mary Glassman.
"The impact of last year's intense, record-breaking weather on our state - structurally, financially and emotionally - is something I hope we don't have to experience again anytime soon. But the fact is, a situation like that can present itself at anytime, and it's something we must be prepared for and be ready to respond to," Governor Malloy said. "With that in mind, I've directed state agencies to begin implementing several changes to procedures and will work with lawmakers on adopting legislative changes to allow our state, municipalities and its partners to better respond to natural disasters."
Lt. Governor Wyman said, "Despite the very real hardships and frustration that these storms produced, the people of Connecticut showed incredible patience and resilience in dealing with them. These initiatives show that the Governor and I are committed to making sure that our residents never again have to endure that level of distress. By improving our infrastructure and the preparation of the state, our municipalities and the utilities, we will be able to provide our residents with a greatly improved response the next time we face these kinds of catastrophic events."
A portion of what the Governor announced today includes proposed legislation that will authorize the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to establish performance benchmarks for utility companies. These new benchmarks will establish penalties for companies if they fail to make the proper preparations in advance of a storm or if they don't complete the repairs that are required afterward in a reasonable amount of time. The package will also demand that state agencies, utility companies and municipal governments conduct a real-time training exercise to improve performance during and after an event such as the ones Connecticut recently experienced. This will be the largest state-sponsored exercise in recent history.
"The new regulations that PURA will implement for utility companies will provide a clear incentive for proper preparation and timely repairs," Governor Malloy said. "And the improved training exercises will help our state and local governments to better respond in a time of crisis. We can't know exactly what emergency is coming next, but we can learn from past experience and improve. The initiatives we're announcing today are the first step toward that goal."
Governor Malloy is directing relevant state commissioners and agency heads to immediately begin meeting and devising a plan through the Division of Emergency Management & Homeland Security (DEMHS) Advisory Council that will most effectively implement these changes, some of which are already being executed. He stressed that the initiatives announced today are not the only actions the administration will be taking on this issue. In the coming months, the Governor will continue working with legislators, commissioners, municipalities, utility companies, non-profits and other partners to propose additional steps to improve preparedness and recovery efforts.
Introduction of legislation that authorizes the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA) to develop performance standards for all utilities' responses to emergencies, storms and natural disasters. Standards would address planning, hazard mitigation, staffing and equipment, response times and recovery efforts. Failure to meet the standards should result in penalties.
Work with utilities to improve mutual assistance.
Management & Communication
Use the existing DEMHS Statewide Advisory Council for DESPP-DEMHS to convene state agency commissioners to delve into and review these recommendations, and to ensure that administration responses and actions are coordinated.
Work to permanently fill the position of Deputy Commissioner for Emergency Management and Homeland Security of DESPP in the next 60 days. The Deputy Commissioner will work with the DESPP Commissioner and OPM to fill priority positions such as the Exercise, Training & Special Projects Manager and Planning Director positions in a timely fashion.
In all future emergencies, this administration will continue the practice of daily conference calls between the Governor and municipal CEOs as outlined in the State Response Framework.
DESPP-DEMHS is currently pursuing funds to expand United Way of Connecticut 2-1-1's communication capacity.
Charge OPM to lead and synthesize GIS (Geospatial Information Systems) information and work with DESPP-DEMHS to implement its use. Coordinate with the Critical Infrastructure staff of DESPP-DEMHS to work collaboratively with OPM and relevant stakeholders.
Charge the Department of Administrative Services (DAS) and its Bureau of Enterprise Systems & Technology (BEST) to make available to key state agencies ArcGIS Server system in the next 90 days, and then to all agencies as part of a phase-in. DAS-BEST should work to eliminate barriers and redundancies that prohibit the use of the system. DAS-BEST and OPM have been working towards this roll-out since the summer.
Exploring a cross agency enforcement team with the Department of Energy & Environmental Protection (DEEP) and PURA instead of creating a brand new division to better utilize existing resources; management and administration of poles and wires will be handled as part of an enforcement team.
Preparedness & Training
DESPP-DEMHS plans to hold a real-time exercise that all five DEMHS regions will participate in some capacity before September.
Explore amending the Good Samaritan Law or Title 28 to allow community providers to provide sheltering services to the general public in a declared state of emergency.
DESPP-DEMHS plans to start an Energy & Utility Work group which will address enhance planning and communications, and will become a permanent committee of the DEMHS Advisory Council in accordance with the process provided to the Governor in response to the Witt Report.
DESPP-DEMHS plans to expand the role of the existing Interoperable Communications Work Group to coordinate and enhance emergency communications.
DEMHS is converting many of the task forces that were used successfully in the two storms into work groups under the DEMHS Advisory Council. DEMHS has already convened a State Mass Care work group that is working to address the recommendations; Nonprofit Liaison Deb Heinrich is already collaborating with this work group.
DESPP-DEMHS in collaboration with the Connecticut Conference of Municipalities (CCM) will provide training on municipal roles and responsibilities in an emergency at a CEO workshop in March and collaborate with municipal leaders and emergency directors for a May 1 CCM conference on emergency preparedness.
Increase Department of Transportation tree maintenance by $1 million for road/tree safety.
Ask PURA to open a docket in an expeditious fashion to address utilities' tree trimming plans to prevent excessive infrastructure damage before the next storm.
Explore a potential partnership between DEEP's Forestry Unit and PURA to work collaboratively on tree trimming - a partnership enabled by the DEEP merger.
Develop a pilot program for microgrids in city centers and the use of energy improvement districts.
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