Update, 11:30 a.m.: There is also another twitter account, Wilton Emergency Mgt or twitter.com/wiltonemergency. It's not entirely clear which account is to be used, as it was not specified at the meeting.
After two major storms left many residents without electricity or water for more than a week in some cases, the town of Wilton is now getting serious about streamlining its emergency response communication to residents via social media and radio broadcasting.
Presenting before the Board of Selectmen last night, Fire Chief Paul Milositz, who doubles as the town’s emergency response director, outlined the most recent strides in emergency communication, which included an emergency-only Wilton Facebook page and Wilton Twitter account.
The town’s official emergency Facebook page, titled “Wilton Emergency Management,” had been set up since two weeks after Tropical Storm Irene hit. Today was however something of an official unveiling of the page (being a public Facebook page, it has technically been live since its creation) which also explains why only two people “like” the official page.
First Selectman William Brennan said that the town has been listening to its citizens and looking to other towns for emergency response examples. One town the town could compare itself to would be neighboring New Canaan, which has an active emergency Facebook page and 1,927 “likes” as of this writing.
As evidenced by the comments left on New Canaan’s emergency-response Facebook page, an active social media front can lead to grateful citizens. No less than 24 people gave a heartwarming thanks to New Canaan for their clear communication efforts (see accompanying photo).
“Halleluiah!!! Thank you for hanging in there until all of us were back up and running. That is what community is all about! Hope you all take a much needed vacation (maybe in a place with no trees?!). Thanks again for everything you all have done - makes me proud of this town!!" wrote one New Canaan resident.
Last Thursday, Dec. 1, Wilton Patch l page. It currently has 127 "likes."
Before the meeting, Patch spoke with Milositz on these new social media mediums.
“We have to get better at [communication with residents]," he said. "We developed that Facebook page to just start to get our name out there, looking at the ins-and-outs of using that page ….It was started after Hurricane Irene, but was not used during the October storm."
“We have to go slowly because we’re a municipality, and not an individual person,” he said. “We’ve posted notifications around town…but if people want to get their information [through social media] then we need to do that too."
When contacted, John Savarese, Wilton’s Information Technology Director, said that Milositz would be the best person to speak to about the new social mediums in an email sent to Wilton Patch yesterday. This suggests that the town’s emergency social media will be covered by Milositz. It is unclear as to who else will be managing these accounts, likely because these social platforms have just now been officially introduced to the town.
Milositz also runs Wilton’s emergency management Twitter account but is the first to admit that he’s new to the platform.
“I know at least one person is following me, so that’s good,” he joked at last night’s board meeting. You can follow the emergency management account at twitter.com/WiltonEMD. The last tweet—about 13 hours ago as of Monday night at 11:30 p.m.— says “I really dont get this tweet thing.”
New Canaan’s emergency response Twitter account, while active with 344 tweets, has only 66 followers.
Milositz stressed that wiltonct.org would remain the best place to get emergency information.
“[The town’s website] is by far the best place to start looking for our residents,” said Milositz. He cited a ticker at the top of the webpage which scrolled emergency notifications for a dense-fog warning last night.
The social media platforms will only be used for town-wide emergencies that deal with massive blackouts, situations that require assistance the town cannot handle or if the Emergency Operations Center is in operation.
Milositz said there is a plan to utilize a radio station at Westport’s Staples High School for broadcasting Wilton-specific emergency information. The chief said that Staples has “tentatively agreed” to announce Wilton information after broadcasting Westport-specific information. Staples High School Radio, or WWPT, is broadcast on 90.3 FM.
Perhaps still the most popular for residents, the Code Red emergency hotline received 678 calls during the two storms.
The automated response is “updated with information as it appears on the Wilton homepage” so people who are unable to get online can sign up and receive information at least twice a day at 10 a.m. and 5 p.m., Milositz said.
“It’s important to know that the town does not restore power and does not have the capabilities to do so," he said. "Residents must call CL&P to report outages in their area."
For residents who find themselves out and about but without access to any of the above communications, emergency bulletins will posted at CVS, Village Market, Stop and Shop, Caraluzzi’s, Orem’s Diner, Comstock Communict Center, Wilton Town Hall, the library, and the Wilton YMCA.
But the strongest offense is a personal defense, Brennan said.
“Every family should have a week’s worth of food and water per person. Be prepared."
*A previous version of this article called Paul Milositz 'John' Milositz. It has been corrected.