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Talk, No Action, on Emergency Notification Improvements

West Deptford officials heard suggestions for improving notice to residents in an emergency, but aren't overly impressed with the options.

Though it happened six weeks ago, the Paulsboro train derailment is still very much on the minds of West Deptford's Emergency Services Coordinating Council.

The Nov. 30 incident—specifically, how West Deptford officials responded to the emergency—dominated Monday's Emergency Services Coordinating Council meeting.

Mayor Ray Chintall, who was absent at the December council meeting, wanted to thank the first responders for their efforts on the day of the derailment and commended officials on getting the information out to residents of the White Swan development who lived within the vicinity of the vinyl chloride leak.

Still, Chintall is encouraging anyone to come forward with suggestions on how to improve their emergency notification methods.

“We've been looking into ways where we can exhaust every method of communication,” he said. “You have to make sure all of the information has to go through the proper chain.”

The last statement was made in reference to White Swan resident Josephine Daws who complained at a December township committee meeting about the slow notification process on Dec. 1. Chintall, along with other township officials, have stated multiple times that they weren't going to release information until they knew it was 100 percent factual and that information was released as soon as possible.

Still, the plea from township residents to get emergency information out faster has led to the discussion of an electronic system for West Deptford. Chintall said that West Deptford is looking at doing a complete overhaul of their website and e-mail servers in the near future and setting up an emergency email system could be included in the revamp.

Jerry Maher, who is a township resident and member of the zoning board, spoke in favor Monday night of sending out email notifications, even if it meant using the West Deptford school district's email system. West Deptford schools send emails to all parents and guardians in the event of lockdowns, closings due to inclement weather and other special circumstances.

Township administrator Eric Campo said that while the township could use the school email system, and has in the past for situations like the trick-or-treating date change in 2012, the email system only goes out to families with children in the school district and not to every resident.

Campo also said the township has looked at other possibilities, such as Global Connect, an emergency alert system that is used in other towns in South Jersey. However, such an alternative would end up being too costly for the township.

Discussion between township officials, emergency personnel and the public will continue, but there is no concrete plans to make any changes at this time. Chintall explained that the system that is in place is very efficient and added that even if an electronic system is added, "you still won't be able to please everybody."

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theresa barnett January 15, 2013 at 09:48 PM
Do property's like White Swan Trailer Park have emergency horns to sound off to alert the residents of serious endangerment? The siren could go off similar to the fire companies to let the residents know what type of danger it is . Maybe the exspense could be all or half the cost go to the property owners with a write off.

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