Bettering Plainfield with the facts since 2005

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Earthquake: Downtown damage, emergency management questions

Crack in false column on North of store facade.

Cracks in facade. Were these in evidence before?

Fired Division evacuated the store pending an inspection.
It was comforting, mere minutes after Plainfield was shaken by yesterday's earthquake, to find the Fire Division hard at work inspecting tall buildings for signs of damage.

Arons Furniture, in the wing of the Horizons at Plainfield (formerly Tepper's) building that faces onto Somerset Street was temporarily evacuated on orders of Fire Division personnel when damage was spotted to the building's facade.

The columns which frame the store from the ground to the top of the building are actually false, assemblages of plywood (apparently) covered with stucco, and the joints appeared to have been 'popped' by the shaking of the building.

I also noticed that the facade which seems it could be made up of sheets of plywood, also covered with stucco, had prominent 'cracks' where the sheets joined that I do not recall from previous scrutiny.

(I have a cache of pictures showing construction details from when a drunk plowed into one of the columns a couple of years ago, see end of this post.)

Construction inspector Joe Minarovich was spotted consulting with police and fire officials and not long afterward the caution tape was removed and the store was open for business.

All well and good, but the experience raises several other questions -- especially in light of how other area towns reacted (see Courier story here) --

  • Piscataway asked residents at 2:08 PM via text and email to call ONLY IF there was property damage;

  • Rahway, at 2:09 PM, advised via text and email there were no public safety incidents;

  • South Brunswick advised via the Nixle service at 2:11 PM of no injuries or damages -- a later post pointed to FEMA earthquake guidelines;
The Ledger points out that Facebook and Twitter were where folks first turned to spread word of the earthquake (see here). They also posted a graphic detailing the differences between East Coast and West Coast earthquakes (see here, PDF).

 I myself posted first on Twitter, then a Plainfield Today post and linked that to Facebook, where my wall already had twenty or more posts -- including from Plainfield city employees.

And Plainfield?

Well, aside from the Fire and Police Divisions obviously being hard at work, there was nary a peep on the city's website. (Someone will have to let me know if there was any notice on PCTV34/96.)

While other towns use a variety of means to reach out to residents -- text/emails, either their own or Nixle; their own Twitter feeds or Facebook pages; and reverse-911 programs (which leave voicemails) -- Plainfield does not deploy any of these outreach methods.

Which brings us to the question of Plainfield's emergency management plans.

Years ago, Plainfield hosted a tabletop simulated disaster exercise. At the time, Muhlenberg was the nerve center of the exercise. Plainfield's disaster plan was to be updated as a consequence of feedback from the exercise. And it should have been updated again when Muhlenberg was closed in 2008.

Was it?

Who knows?

A thorough-going emergency management plan would include both disaster management elements for a variety of scenarios and an evacuation plan for the general populace.

Are these in place?

Who knows?

And if they are, why aren't they -- or appropriate parts of them -- made public?

Google searches turn up plenty of public information --

  • Disaster Preparedness Plans -- about 2.5 million (see search here)

  • Disaster Management Plans -- about 6.25 million (see search here)

  • Disaster Plan Templates -- about 1.12 million (see search here)
but you will search in vain for Plainfield's disaster plan (see search here).

Lest you think all the responsibility is on government to do disaster planning and provide public information on same, ask yourself the status of your FAMILY DISASTER PLAN.

What?! You don't have one? What if yesterday's quake had resulted in real damage and injuries, if roads had been damaged and buildings flattened?

What would you have done?

A Google search for Family
Disaster Plans turns up more than 4.6 million (see search here).

Here is a good one to get you started -- "Family Disaster Plan"

Scenes from October 2009, when a drunk plowed into one of the false columns.
Bottom photo clearly shows outlines of panels making up facade.

-- Dan Damon [follow]

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Bob said...

My only question is, "How do we know what's new and old damage?" We have so many buildings with cracks in them, I just wonder.

Rob said...

Dan...this is Plainfield.
They can't pave or maintain roads.
They can't pass or enforce meaningful zoning.
They can't enforce building codes.
They can't hold contractors to their agreements.
They can't keep drugs, drinking or loitering out of your average public, in your face, location.
Modern technology to inform the residents ??
They don't even use outdated technology to inform the residents. Maybe the City of Plainfield can ask Scotch Plains, North Plainfield, South Plainfield or Edison to handle notifying the citizens in cases of emergency...we'd have better luck asking them to do it for us.

olddoc said...

Dan you could OPRA the disaster plan. lots of luck.

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan,
You know Shelton Green is responsible for our emergency response duties. This on top of being a constable and nonworking fire fighter keeps him very busy. Maybe the Council should rethink and redo the job descriptions of the former two positions. Jezz only in Plainfield. Poor fellow is tuckered out. LOL