The needler in the haystack.

Monday, February 2, 2015

City, PMUA could make better use of emergency communications


Emergency communications methods have improved dramatically,
but implementation could be better.

When bad weather strikes, Plainfield residents want -- and need -- to know what the deal is with essential agencies and services. Will things run on normal schedules, will they be delayed . . . or canceled altogether?

As I was putting today's CLIPS blog together, many agencies had gotten the word out overnight about how they were handling services today.

The state, the Union County Courts and the Plainfield Public Schools had word out last night.

The schools and the Neighborhood Health Center posted late opening notices to their websites, as did the Plainfield Public Library -- which also sent me an email late Sunday evening.

City Hall? The PMUA? Missing in action.

Both the city and the PMUA have adopted emergency communications strategies to reach out to the community, but there does not seem to be a consistent policy for how and when they will be used.

Consider that in recent weeks (including the current storm), we have received Nixle and emergency phone messages from the City related to weather conditions and what residents should do about driving and parking.

However, in this case, there is no word from the City about whether services have been affected. If things are going to run as normal, why not pass the word?

With regard to the PMUA, I signed up for their "important service announcements" service several days ago, as noted in a previous post. However, it has been radio silence ever since and I could not find any word on their website this morning about whether service is normal, changed or suspended for today.

All of this brings up another issue and that is the tangle of roadwork and street closings as a result of utility work throughout the city. Every day now, one can be surprised by driving through downtown to find various streets and crossings suddenly closed off, with no indication of what to do.

I often wonder how folks who use the NJ Transit buses manage when their bus stop is suddenly unreachable by the buses?

When Plainfield Avenue was repaved several months ago, all the east/west cross streets between Front and Seventh were blocked for several days but there was no notice about how to detour to get from one side to the other (except for Front Street, where traffic was diverted at Sycamore Avenue and Grant Avenue into North Plainfield). There was never a message about road conditions on any of the city's emergency communications methods.

So, if we are going to have these emergency communications tools, shouldn't we use them wisely?

Part of the problem may be that agencies still have a nine-to-five mentality. They should learn from the school district, which has long been ahead of the curve in letting families know about school closings and delayed openings ahead of time. Or from the DPW, which does not wait until 9:00 AM opening time to decide about plowing and salting.

Another is that there needs to be a clear chain of command about who is responsible for passing the word along on emergency situations. The Mapp administration is making moves in this direction with the expanded emergency committee ordinance which is up for discussion tonight (see my previous post here), but it still strikes me as somewhat hit or miss.

The PMUA has put one foot forward; now it needs to move the other one.

Time for agencies that have figured out the importance of social networks to implement their communications strategies wisely, consistently, and thoroughly across the board.



  -- Dan Damon [follow]


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1 comments:

Hugo L Fernandez said...

Yes I'm living in 5 Madison Ave and all week to 2/02/2015 and today is a monster pile de garbage. is not pick nothing and the bill a monster bill ider.