By Jeff Gallatin
Mayor Debbie Sutherland expects to have a better message for city residents in early 2013 on how the city will communicate information to them during emergency situations.
Sutherland said she has her Emergency Communications Task Force set and plans to hold the initial meeting in the next few days.
“We’ll probably set up one meeting for December and then we’ll see how the group feels about the next meetings,” she said. “I know it’s the holiday season and people are busy, so if we don’t hold any other meetings until after the holidays, we’ll do that.”
Whatever the meeting schedule, Sutherland said she doesn’t expect the meetings to last for a long period.
“This isn’t a long-term project which will last several months,” she said. “I hope we have something for the residents to consider by sometime in February.”
Sutherland set up the task force after there were complaints from residents about the flow of information during the events of Hurricane Sandy. Thousands of residents in the city were without power for several days during Sandy and the cleanup afterward. The residents cited the inability to get information about when power might be restored to their homes, as well as other services from the city and utilities.
In addition to setting up the task force to try to improve communications involving the city and residents, Sutherland and other Westshore mayors met with officials from the Illuminating Co. and received assurances from the utility that it would have more crews available earlier for cleanup and repair work in smaller cities like Bay Village. The utility also committed to setting up a grid map for people and cities to access information, and holding conference calls with mayors to keep them informed.
“We’re taking several different steps to make sure people have access to information and that we can get it to them in a timely fashion,” Sutherland said. “We know it’s frustrating for people to not know what’s going on in a situation like Sandy, with no power and other issues going on. If we can get them information, hopefully it will make things get better for them faster.”
Sutherland said the task force has a blend of people with communications, safety and information backgrounds.
“There are people from newspapers, public relations and other communications, people with safety and emergency backgrounds as well as interested citizens,” she said. “We should be able to touch on a variety of topics and ways to do this.”
The task force members are Laura Spade, communications; Jen Kennedy, public relations; Dave Adams, newspapers; Ken Kennard, safety forces; Bob Frye, emergency planning for hospitals; Jim Kettren, CERT (Community Emergency Response Team); Mark Gamble, citizen; Susan Murnane, attorney; Dave Wright, Bay Village police chief; Chris Lyons, Bay Village fire chief; and Scott Pohlkamp, Bay Village councilman at large.
Pohlkamp, who holds a communications degree and works in medical sales and communication industries, said the group will come up with some good means of getting the information to the public.
“We’ll find ways of using all means of communication for people,” he said. “Not everybody uses the same means, so we’ll find the best ways to get this done.”
Even though Pohlkamp has tendered his resignation from city council effective Dec. 31, Sutherland said he will still be an effective member of the task force with his background in communications.
Sutherland said the task force will be providing a useful and necessary service.
“We’ll be finding ways of helping people link up with crucial information during tough times,” she said. “And it’s northern Ohio, so you know there will be other storms and issues where we need this type of communication.”