(City of Ferndale Press Release, 11/7/2011)
The City of Ferndale experienced their fair share of the summer in the dark. Residents found themselves without power in the hottest week of the summer and again Labor Day weekend in the heart of the strongest storm the City has experienced in years. Both events sparked City staff to put into motion a communications plan that focused on little or no use of technology that Americans have come to rely on.
“We are so focused on websites, social media and E-mail, we have lost sight of the fact that in an event of a major disaster, communication that relies on these forms of technology will fail us,” said April McGrath, City Manager for Ferndale. “We realized quickly, that while having our website up to date and offering information on social media sites we were still missing a large segment of our population without power.”
Staff began looking at the core ways of communicating. “We aren’t going to stop putting information on our website or other forms of electronic communication,” stated Chief Kevin Sullivan of the Ferndale Fire Department, “but we need other forms of communication in the event access has been eliminated.”
“This also brought attention to the fact that we assume everyone even has these forms of communication,” said Sullivan. “There is a segment of our population that does not have computers and when we need to communicate emergency information they need to know where to go.” Chief Sullivan is the City’s lead facilitator of the Emergency Management Plan for the City of Ferndale, who, over the next year, will be making adjustments and changes to ensure that City staff and City Council are prepared to handle any emergency that comes our way. “We aren’t trying to scare people,” said Sullivan. “But we can’t ignore the changes we have seen in the weather and the threat to our security. We need to plan for the worst and hope for the best.”
“We are fortunate that we have had an opportunity to address how we communicate,” said McGrath. “While the events over the summer were unfortunate, we were truly lucky it wasn’t worse. We were given a chance to look at our weak links and address the concerns.”
“Staff has completed an internal policy on how to address communication that includes who, where, when and in what form information is sent,” said McGrath. “Residents will see information provided on our website, WFRN (Comcast Channel 53, WOW Channel 10), local news stations, local radio stations and our local newspapers.” This assumes that depending on the type of emergency the City has access to this technology. “We will attempt to provide as much information as possible using technology,” said McGrath. “But again, it depends on the type of emergency.”
As for non-traditional methods of communicating, the City has implemented a communications plan that has residents “Get Your Note Where You Vote!” “We needed something to get information out when technology methods were compromised,” said Chief Sullivan. “Most residents know where they vote and most precincts are within walking distance to a resident’s home.”
“The City will attempt to deliver this information to each precinct,” said McGrath, “but in all reality it depends on the state of the City and the ability to get to the precincts. For instance, using the examples that occurred over the summer, we would have been able to deliver that information. However, in a worst case scenario, we may not have the ability to get there.”
“Again, this communications plan isn’t designed to scare residents, but we need to be prepared,” said Chief Sullivan. Using the “Get Your Note Where You Vote” as a catalyst, the City also wants to be sure that residents are prepared for an emergency.
“We have added a new page to our website,” said McGrath. “There you will find information on helping residents prepare their home and their families for an emergency.” The information provided on the website talks in greater detail on what residents should have in their house for an emergency but also talks about generator safety, preparing for a winter storm, how to find their family member in case of communication breakdowns, preparing an emergency plan with your family, etc.
“Get Your Note Where You Vote! is just part of the communications plan,” said McGrath. “We encourage our residents to review our website for great information. Talk to your neighbors. If they don’t have access to a computer, offer the information you have found or encourage them to go to the Library to use a computer. Preparing for and communicating during an emergency relies on the entire Community, we can’t do it ourselves.”
Please visit www.ferndale-mi.com for more information.
Here are the nine precincts:
1. Harding Administration Building School – 2920 Burdette
2. Roosevelt School – 2610 Pinecrest
3. Ferndale High School – 881 Pinecrest
4. Kulick Community Center – 1201 Livernois
5. Taft Education Center – 427 Allen
6. Autumn House – 500 E. Nine Mile Road
7. University High School – 1244 Paxton
8. Edison Elementary School – 1700 Shevlin
9. Ferndale Activities Center – 1615 E. Lewiston