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01/03/2017 11:00 PM

Winter is (Still) Coming: The Best Defense is Proper Preparation

We might not have had a white Christmas, but winter weather is on its way. Officials from Chester, Essex, and Deep River encourage residents to be alert, believe the forecasts, and use common sense preparation approaches to stay safe in case of bad weather.

“Sometimes, people don’t believe the forecasts,” said Essex First Selectman Norm Needleman, a sentiment echoed by Chester Emergency Management Director Joel Severance.

“The biggest mistakes are when people with functional needs don’t reach out for help, and others not thinking about those who might need help,” Severance said.

Residents checking in on neighbors can go a long way to keeping people safe when snowed in or during power outages, especially if the state experiences a cold snap following a strong winter storm.

“If the power goes out, call Eversource or they won’t know that you are out,” said Severance. “If you see downed power lines don’t touch them or anything near them that might conduct the electricity. Stay away from them and call 911 to report it.”

Generally speaking, the experts say all homeowners should stock up needed supplies in advance. This includes food and water (especially if a home is on well water), medications, oxygen tanks for those dependent on breathing apparatus, and heating fuel and gas for vehicles and generators.

People who don’t have a secondary heat source, or have functional needs should remember to reach out for help, and make sure that they are on the emergency services list, as well as the power company’s list should there be a power outage. This list allows the town, first responders, and other officials to be aware that in case of inclement weather impeding normal utilities services, these individuals will need additional assistance, and it allows them to prepare to have aid ready in those areas. Those with concerns about weathering a cold snap are also encouraged to communicate in advanced with their caregiver, be it a relative, neighbor, an agency, or their respective town’s social services department.

If needed, local and regional sheltering will be made available, usually at John Winthrop Middle School. Deep River Town Hall and the Chester Fire House have been used in the past as well. Residents can call 2-1-1 to find their nearest shelter, or contact their local town hall. They are also encouraged to reach out to their faith-based facility, as many also open their doors as warming, cooling, or charging stations, or to provide meals if the power is out for a prolonged period of time.

“We learned from a few years ago, when we had a blizzard followed by a cold snap,” said Needleman. “We’ve become better at identifying people who didn’t have alternative sources of heat, registering them, and making spaces available to relocate them to if this situation repeats. In some ways, the prolonged cold is worse than the hurricanes. You might be a bit smelly after the storm passes as we’re getting things restored and back to normal, but when its too cold for too long without power, that is when things can be more dangerous.

“With the snow it’s also important to remember that crews work through the storms for the most part, but they need to sleep, too. In this area we’re pretty good about having the roads cleared within 24 hours,” continued Needleman.

“Just use common sense, and I think that most people around here are pretty smart and do that,” added Deep River First Selectman Angus McDonald. “Stay informed, check the news, listen to the radio, check the website, or just call Town Hall. We’ll post updates for residents in as many places as possible. Make sure you have food and water and stay inside if you can. Give the towns and state time to clear the roads.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency also recommend having a kit with flashlights, a battery-operated radio, extra batteries, a first aid kit, cash, and a cell phone and charger. An emergency kit checklist can be found at, along with a comprehensive emergency preparedness guidebook.

Who to Call if You Need Help in a Storm

Emergency Services: 911

Warming Center Information: 211

Eversource: 800-286-2000

Essex Town Hall: 860-767-4340

Deep River Town Hall: 860-526-6020

Chester Town Hall: 860-526-0013