HOPATCONG, NJ - A borough council meeting that had been postponed by ice was mainly devoted to honoring first responders, who rescued borough residents during Hurricane Sandy.
Mayor Sylvia Petillo presented commendations to ambulance squad captain Dan Rodriquez, DPW Superintendent Ron Jobeless, fire chief Wade Crowley, police chief Bob Brennan, dispatcher Liz Faarz, and Pat Mochella and OEM coordinator Bob Haffner.
In her opening remarks, Petillo said: “Our first responders are so wonderful and sometimes we rely on them so much, that we forget that they left their families and their homes to protect our community.”
“The town is devastated,” Jobeless told her, immediately after the storm, the mayor said.
She said she had just thought about how to take care of the people forced out of their homes when she found Haffner had already secured the high school for a shelter.
Council honored the ambulance squad for responding to at least 58 emergencies, the true number difficult to ascertain because of problems with the dispatching system during times of power outages.
The emergency vehicles needed the help of the DPW to open roads, put up barricades, mark hanging wires and cut up trees, as well as to plow the snow that fell during the nor-easter which came right on the heels of the hurricane.
Petillo noted the dispatchers fielded both emergency and non-emergency calls and coordinated the fire, police, and emergency services, as well as the power company, cable company and phone company, DPW and municipal and county offices. They were not only efficient, but also reassuring to residents who really needed it, she said.
The fire department spent the storm answering structure fire, carbon monoxide, brush fire and other calls. They even transported a citizen in his hospital bed to the shelter. They also picked up supplies, such as water and ice, from the county.
The police department’s role was amplified by the election coming in the middle of the clean-up from the storm. They had to organize and secure polling places. In addition to road patrol, they assisted with emergencies and performed crowd control, the police manned the shelter when needed and assisted the dispatchers when they had to. Communication is essential during an emergency and the borough lost internet service for some time, creating the need for captain Tina Krause and lieutenant Tom Kmetz to use their cell phones to post messages on the police department Facebook Page. Petillo personally thanked Patrolman Anthony Cirri for driving her around the borough to assess the damage and respond to JCP&L.
During emergencies the Office of Emergency Management is the lead department and the OEM Coordinator works with town officials to make decisions. One of the biggest chores after Sandy was to organize a shelter. The shelter set up at Hopatcong High School by Bob Haffner was recognized by Fox News as a top shelter by Red Cross standards. Petillo said, “Officer Haffner did a phenomenal job of leading us through this catastrophe day by day and sometimes hour by hour.”
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