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Thursday, May 3, 2012

Milford's Slossberg announces state storm response strengthened

State Sen. Gayle Slossberg (D-Milford) announced passage in the Senate of a bill that would help municipalities improve emergency storm response by requiring utilities to share GIS mapping data.
Last year’s devastating tropical storm and severe winter weather knocked out power to thousands of homes throughout the state and required emergency personnel to respond to downed trees and wires.

Senate Bill 426, An Act Concerning Geographic Information Systems Data Sharing, would require electric utilities to share critical GIS data about locations of utility poles and transformers, so that municipal first responders can more quickly and efficiently target priority areas. The bill passed Wednesday evening and now goes to the House for a final vote.

“This bill will speed up the process of getting help to families who are plunged into darkness in the wake of a severe storm,” Sen. Slossberg said. “In the chaos that ensues after a storm strikes, access to GIS data can streamline the process of responding to emergencies and restoring power to homes. This legislation requires utility companies to disclose GIS data and, by doing so, allows fire departments and first responders to devise a targeted response plan.”

Fire marshals and city officials from several towns throughout the state submitted testimony during a public hearing in March in favor of the bill, which they view as a smart and simple strategy for improving emergency storm response plans.

Milford GIS analyst Meghan McGaffin wrote in submitted testimony that GIS data would have aided emergency response after several storms last year.

“Pole data in local Emergency Operations Centers and in the hands of public works, police and fire personnel would have streamlined communication, increased response efficiency and improved restoration prioritization,” Ms. McGaffin stated in her testimony.

McGaffin added that the GIS data can be useful to municipalities for other applications as well, such as land-use planning and mapping for wastewater and other agencies.

The bill would require sharing of utility pole data, including pole ownership, identification number, coordinated location, attached lighting and the location of any pole-mounted transformer or circuit.

“The simple ability to put on a map the location of all reported wires down and road blockages caused by wires and trees down certainly gives emergency response planners and responders a much clearer picture of the scope and possible impact of these emergency conditions in real time,” Wilton Fire Chief Paul Milositz stated in testimony submitted to the committee.

Slossberg's office submitted this information via a press release. 


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