My plan for the first column of the new year was to focus on some of the positive things we could look forward to in Conception Bay South in 2014.
That changed on the weekend when we had another major storm and the town of C.B.S. failed again to provide residents with timely information and assistance to help them cope with the storm and power outages.
After last year’s early January storm, when some homes were without power for several days, there were indications that the town realized it could have better responded and provided information for residents and set up a location for people without power.
A year later, C.B.S. still does not appear to have a strategy to communicate with residents during storms and power outages, nor to provide any help for those without power.
Despite the predictions of a colder than average winter, more storms, and knowledge of problems with the Holyrood generating station, the town was not ready for the storm. Yes, the plows kept roads well cleared, but without power and very little open, some were more concerned about what services were available and where to get warm.
Many rely on websites and social media such as Facebook,Twitter and other websites to get information.
During the storm, Twitter was an excellent source for updates from municipalities, Newfoundland Power, Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro, the media and government. For those without Twitter, websites were excellent resourcess on power outages, closures, warming centres and basic safety information.
It was surprising to visit our town’s website the morning of the storm and find that the public notices section’s last posting was Dec. 30.
There was nothing about the pre-storm rotating power outages and their potential impact on the town.
There was nothing posted the morning of the storm and major power outage about how the town was helping residents deal with the storm.
With the weather and power outages expected, the town could have at least used its website to list some emergency contact numbers and websites. If the town really had a warming centre planned for the west end of the town, which they did announce mid-afternoon on Saturday, why was such valuable information not posted earlier?
The town’s Twitter account, which has over 1,300 followers, was also silent about what residents could expect from the town during the storm.
The first bit of information appeared about 3:30 p.m. on Saturday, which was a notice that a warming centre was open at the West End Fire Station.
The province’s largest municipality, which promotes itself as a progressive town and great place to live, should have posted this information long before Saturday afternoon. The timing suggests that the warming centre was an afterthought. It seems to have popped up when officials realized we were the only major town in the area without a central location for residents to get some food and heat.
Fortunately, Twitter accounts of the major utilities provided regular information during the storm. Municipal Affairs Minister Steve Kent was a valuable source of information, using Twitter to provide regular updates.
The local news media and many of their journalists updated us on everything from outages to where to buy food and provisions. Neighbouring municipalities used Twitter and their websites to keep residents abreast of services available to them.
Our town should learn from the latest storm. Look at what your neighbouring municipalities did and how you can improve your communication and services. We expect and deserve the same here in C.B.S.
Joan Butler is a lifelong resident
of Kelligrews, Conception Bay South.
She can be reached by email