By Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Tuesday July 23, 2013
Residents feel powerless in information blackout
The city waited more than two days to post public information about the emergency response to the Friday storms that downed hundreds of trees and left 20,000 homes in the dark.
The information blackout angered some people more than the mass power outage, say councillors, some of whom are calling for a centralized online information site for residents in emergencies.
“Our city workers are doing a phenomenal job, but we can do far better communicating what they’re doing, ” said Councillor Sam Merulla, who wants to see an “interactive” web page that pulls in information from local utilities. – “Anyone with a smartphone can still communicate when the hydro is out. “We need to adapt to that reality and provide a one-stop shopping avenue for all the critical information residents are looking for.”
Although close to 75 city and contract workers spent the weekend attacking hundreds of fallen trees, blocked roads and limited water shortages, the city didn’t mention any storm-fighting details on its website or issue a public release until after noon Monday.
By contrast, the City of Burlington posted joint releases online with Burlington Hydro on Saturday and Sunday – a difference noted by some frustrated Twitter users.
Hamilton can do better, conceded city manager Chris Murray. “I’m not going to disagree with the (critical) comments, ” he said Monday afternoon. “In these circumstances you need to be doing everything you can to alleviate citizen fears or concerns.”
Murray said the storm didn’t trigger activation of the city’s official emergency plan, which has built-in communication protocols. But Murray said the flow of information to the public should have been better. (Source: The Hamilton Spectator)