Fairfield police, town review storm response

A Southington man was killed by a fallen tree and wires on the Fairfield-Bridgeport line on July 17.

A Southington man was killed by a fallen tree and wires on the Fairfield-Bridgeport line on July 17.

Christian Abraham / Hearst Connecticut Media

FAIRFIELD — A stormy summer has the town looking into its response systems and protocols.

In the past month, Fairfield has been hit by two major storms, causing widespread power outages and motor vehicle accidents resulting in death both times. Now, both police and town government are keeping an eye out for areas of improvement.

On June 30, a storm knocked out power throughout town, including Town Hall, halting all non-emergency town business and causing road closures on Old Post Road. A 54-year-old Fairfield resident was killed by a fallen tree limb striking his car on Sturges Road.

A July 17 storm also brought about widespread power outages and road closures, bombarding the town’s Emergency Communications with over 100 calls for service. A 21-year-old Sacred Heart University graduate was killed after a tree and downed wires fell on his vehicle.

Capt. Robert Kalamaras acknowledged that it’s been a demanding few weeks of storm response for the Fairfield Police Department.

“Over the last month we have seen an influx of quick rain and thunderstorms that have created some town-wide issues with flooding, downed trees and downed power lines,” he said. “These storms tend to happen quickly, but leave a great deal of initial response and clean-up in their wake.”

Fairfield police and the town are both on the lookout to improve emergency response protocols. The Police Department is working to implement more efficient dispatch technology, as well as create a system for disseminating public information on storm downs.

“We are currently experimenting with new technology that would streamline the deployment process and increase efficiency and effectiveness,” Kalamaras said. “We also have future plans for a public-facing portal that shows our community members where the closures are and where officers are actively working.”

On the town’s side, First Selectman Michael Tetreau said that they are evaluating Fairfield’s resilience, especially after the June 30 storm damaged government facilities.

“We are reviewing the impact of the power outages on our phone systems and internet,” Tetreau said. “Our power backup system failed at Sullivan Independence Hall.”

Tetreau also noted that the town is examining its coordination with United Illuminating Company in responding quickly to life-threatening emergencies. This follows in the wake of the July 17 storm death that involved downed wires.

More storms are likely to hit Fairfield this summer; the National Weather Service has predicted a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms beginning Wednesday afternoon. Town personnel remain prepared to take on the challenge.

“Every storm that comes through Fairfield, we anticipate the worst, but hope for the best,” Kalamaras said. “This allows us to learn and improve our response every time.”