It’s no wonder the Justice League movie did badly at the box office this weekend–it’s because all the real super heroes were hard at work in Wilton yesterday, as multiple emergency calls kept all branches of the town’s first responders busy throughout Sunday. Among the scenarios they had to deal with were downed wires, fallen trees, burning wires, a water main break, multiple road closures, medical emergencies, and more–including a reported rabid raccoon.
“It was a difficult day to say the least,” says Wilton Police Chief John Lynch, who realized early on that once the wind picked up late morning, there would likely be some downed trees. What officials couldn’t have foreseen was that the first hit would be a tree across from Town Hall, which fell on the primary wires that service a good portion of Route 7/Danbury Rd..
That tree knocked out power out for the traffic lights and businesses along Rte. 7, including Orem’s Diner and Our Lady of Fatima church, but compounding the problem was that the tree also cut the power to Wilton’s Town Hall complex for several hours.
“We have beck up generators but the Town Hall generator failed so we lost telephones, internet, email, records management and computer-aided dispatch,” Lynch says. Calls about downed trees and wires started coming in around 11:45 a.m., and fortunately, the 911 system still worked as did the radio systems, both of which are designed to be redundant, according to the Chief. They also utilized cell phones and radio to communicate between dispatch, police and fire headquarters, and one another, and turned to social media to keep the public informed.
Indeed, in addition to police, everyone was activated–Wilton firefighters, the volunteers at Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps (WVAC) and CERT, and Wilton’s Department of Public Works staff all responded throughout the day, with the assistance of dispatchers at headquarters juggling the calls coming in.
“There were multiple EMS calls and fire calls during the afternoon. We all worked together and dealt with the situation. CERT was activated and assisted as well. Public works personnel also responded and cleared roadways,” Lynch describes, adding that Eversource responded immediately and began repairs as well.
One of the more significant events happened at the Chestnut Hill Rd. road closure, since it involved three poles and primary wires. Lynch says there may be damage to the roadway due to the burning wires, all of which will be evaluated by the state Department of Transportation (DOT).
“Today was one of the busiest days I can recall volunteering for the town,” says Brian McDermott, who is both an EMT with WVAC (where he’s also vice president) and a CERT volunteer.
Like many people, McDermott did double duty, finishing up his WVAC shift and then going back out to work with CERT. While the Fire Department was responding to the many calls for downed wires and trees (some of which were on fire), as well as to EMS calls and the water main break, CERT volunteers assisted with road closures, detours and setting up temporary stop signs all along Rte. 7. There were CERT members who worked early in the morning in Stamford for the Thanksgiving Parade only to rush back for a second shift to assist in Wilton, as well as one CERT/EMT member who left his CERT detail to handle two medical calls.
Speaking of medical calls, Wilton Volunteer Ambulance Corps responded to five EMS calls within three hours of each other; volunteer home responders pitched in with the second ambulance to cover the additional calls.
As if all of those issues weren’t enough, later in the afternoon there was a water main break on Dirksen Dr. that undermined the roadway. The water company and public works responded and were working late into the night repairing the damage.
While it was a stressful day for all emergency responders, it’s all part of the job, says Lynch.
“We plan and practice for events such as this and working as a team we’re able to handle the situation. As with every situation such as this, we will review and make whatever changes are needed,” he says, adding that there are still uncertainties left over from the day–like will there be an impact on school opening Monday and more extensive damage. “We are in contact with the schools superintendent and will coordinate to ensure the school busses and children can operate safely tomorrow.”
First selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice was grateful for the dedicated response on the part of everyone who responded and pitched in.
“On behalf of the community I would like to thank the Wilton Police Department, Fire Department and Department of Public Works, and the volunteers from WVAC and CERT for all their hard work today. As with the last recent wind event, many things were occurring simultaneously and everyone worked as a team. We are fortunate to have such good people,” she says.