Outage Management System will unify response to emergencies

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In the years since Hurricane Sandy in 2012, Freeport Mayor Robert Kennedy has taken steps to prevent disasters in future storms. His approach, he says, is to “be proactive and not reactive.”

On July 19, Kennedy and Al Livingston, the superintendent of Freeport Electric, un-veiled a $300,000 “outage management system” that will streamline communications among first re-sponders and village officials so they can better coordinate their efforts during power outages and other non-911-related emergencies.

“Superstorm Sandy changed the way we think about and respond to extreme weather events,” said Emily Thompson, deputy general counsel of the Governor’s Office of Storm Recovery. “The local community reconstruction committee, working with the state, identified the need for a robust outage management system as a priority for Freeport.”

The project, funded by GOSR and New York Rising, the state program that has helped Sandy victims rebuild, will make Freeport the first municipality in the state to implement such a system. The state’s second-largest village, Freeport operates and maintains its own electric, sewer and water infrastructures. There are large staffs at Freeport Electric, the police and fire departments and the Department of Public Works, and each has had its own protocols for responding to emergencies.

“[We] must continue to prepare for any emergency,” Kennedy said. “It’s paramount to our safety.”

It took the village roughly two years to develop the new software, according to Livingston, with the help of mPower, a developer of geographic information system software based in Michigan. All of the village’s agencies and departments will be able to communicate simultaneously, he said, and make critical decisions more quickly and efficiently.

“We wanted something that would put everyone on the same platform, and mPower was up to the task,” Livingston said. “They came in and gave us a presentation. We couldn’t find anything else close to this.”

The new system, scheduled to be in operation by the first week of August, will expedite non-911 complaints through a portal that will be routed to all village departments — police, fire, water and public works. When a resident submits a complaint about a fallen tree, a power outage, a road issue or a similar problem by phone or computer, the system will automatically alert the appropriate department, and staffers will be tasked with investigating the issue.

“The OMS not only visually displays vital data from different departments, but allows departments to interact, update and generate essential reports quickly and efficiently through any browser,” said Jason Brown, mPower’s president and CEO.

The new software is just the latest effort by Kennedy to make the village more storm-resilient. He successfully lobbied U.S. Sen. Chuck Schumer for $3 million in federal grants to conduct a study on the feasibility of floodgates at Jones Inlet, between Point Lookout and Jones Beach’s West End, and at the East Rockaway Inlet, be-tween Atlantic Beach and Far Rockaway. Kennedy has said he believes that surge barriers could mitigate flooding in the event of another major hurricane.