FREEPORT — The town needs to update its emergency operations plan and improve communications with Central Maine Power in the wake of the Oct. 30 storm that left most of Freeport without power for a week.

Town councilors held a meeting on Nov. 16 to hear from residents about Freeport’s response. The meeting would normally have been televised, but the town’s broadcast control equipment was damaged by the storm.

Councilors were joined by town staff, representatives from the police, public works and fire departments, and about a half-dozen residents.

Fire Chief Charlie Jordan said his communication with CMP was cut off late on Oct. 30, an issue the town wants to discuss with CMP representatives at a Cumberland County Emergency Management Agency meeting on Dec. 13.

“CMP went silent on us (and) … would no longer take requests from the dispatch center in Brunswick. They sent our dispatch people into a normal queue of customers,” Jordan said. “We finally got contact with CMP sometime late Wednesday afternoon.”

CMP spokeswoman Gail Rice, however, denied any communication cut-offs. She said CMP asked to have county emergency management agencies funnel requests through Maine’s Emergency Management Agency when service centers became overloaded.

“CMP did not stop taking calls or cut off communications with Freeport or any other town,” Rice said. “People in all of our service centers, including Brunswick, continued to take calls even after we requested that calls be funneled through County EMAs and MEMA.”

Darrel Fournier – who served as the town’s fire chief for 25 years and formerly headed the area’s Emergency Management Association – said this was not the first time CMP “dropped the ball on power issues.”

“The storm overwhelmed them, they didn’t have enough people available,” he said.

Jordan said an update to the town’s emergency management plan is in the works, but he needs assistance from town staff and residents to make sure it is sufficient for future emergencies.

Fournier added that training town staff is crucial to future emergency management and should be done yearly.

Joyce Veilleux of the Cumberland County Incident Management Assistance team agreed.

“Training is key,” she said. “You’ve got new people all over … everyone has to know the plan and I don’t think people did this time.”

Veilleux added that communication between town officials and residents should be improved.

“Information has to go up, down and to the sides and it’s the side part that’s difficult,” she said.

Resident Chris Wolfe said she doesn’t have a cell phone, so when her electricity was out, all communication with the town ended.

“The best way to get (information) out is the old fashioned way … snail mail,” Wolfe said.

Council Chairwoman Sarah Tracy said limited means of communication during the storm was her biggest concern.

“We do need to have a clear, distilled set of communications to our residents,” she said.

Jordan encouraged residents to sign up for a “reverse 9-1-1 system,” CodeRED, an emergency notification service that notifies residents and businesses by phone about emergency situations. The system is capable of sending messages to specific neighborhoods or an entire town.

Jordan said the town is developing a Facebook page to improve communications. Public Works Director Neil Gibson added that he is in favor of using multiple platforms to communicate between the town and residents.

The town will also explore options for an emergency operations center equipped with a generator, where residents can go in future emergency situations.

Anyone who wants to comment on storm response is asked to contact Town Manager Peter Joseph at 865-4743, ext. 118, or email [email protected]

Jocelyn Van Saun can be reached at 781-3661, ext. 183 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter @JocelynVanSaun.

Augusta and Waterville news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.