Emergency Management

High Tech Response to Snow Storms in Bridgeport, CT

In January 2013, after living and working in Sao Paulo, Brazil for a year, I came back home to Bridgeport, CT just in time for the Blizzard of 2013, aka Winter Storm Nemo.

For my friends and neighbors, Superstorm Sandy was a recent memory and as I listened to their many stories, I felt glad that I had the good fortune to miss it. Coming from a sunny Brazilian summer, I couldn’t help but think that people were just exaggerating. It just could not have been that bad, I thought. And then came the blizzard…

It snowed. It kept snowing. Ankle deep, knee deep, waist deep, drifts piled up to the second floor. There was no point clearing the doorway since we couldn’t walk anywhere, anyway. Luckily, we still had power and I could work from home.

The question now was how many days would we be stuck and unable to even walk to our neighbors?

The Emergency Management Director and the rest of the City of Bridgeport’s leadership were probably reeling from the whole situation. I can imagine their primary focus was to get help to those with immediate medical needs, quite a task given that many streets were clogged with stuck cars and snow, and ambulances could not get through them. It was obvious that our snow removal crews and emergency response teams were going to have a tough time doing their jobs.

Here’s a calculation: three feet of snow fell over 829 lane miles of streets, with a lane mile being 5,280 feet long and 12 feet wide. That’s 5.86 million cubic yards of snow! The crews would literally have to move a mountain to clear it all. And to top it off, as citizens we didn’t have much visibility into what the city was doing, so we didn’t know when we would be able to get out – yet another item the city had to deal with as part of its storm response. Eventually the snow did get removed

Image of quote from City of Bridgeport official

and life returned to normal, but new lessons were learned and needed to be applied in time for the next big storm.

A few months later, I joined my old GE team who had started a new company to build Veoci.  I was thrilled to learn that since Sandy, the City of Bridgeport had been in the process of getting approval to use Veoci. As a citizen, my number one wish for the city leadership is that they continue to improve our city and the lives of its people. Taking the steps to use Veoci certainly made me see that our city’s leadership was responding to our needs and concerns. And led by Bridgeport, Connecticut’s Region 1 acquired licenses for its fourteen towns, stretching from Greenwich to Stratford along the southwest shoreline.

 Less than a year has passed since the City of Bridgeport started working with Veoci. After attending a two-day training with us, Scott Appleby, the Bridgeport’s Emergency Management Director, and his team are now Veoci experts and use it to manage large events and training drills. In fact, we had a large weather event a week ago, and Bridgeport was ready. The city utilized large Veoci maps projected on multiple EOC screens, providing real-time updates on trouble spots as reported by first responders with mobile devices all over the city. They were able to classify the severity and importance of these trouble spots with color coded indicators (red being highest priority) and metadata, giving the EOC a clear overview in a way that made crystal clear where resources needed to be deployed first. The information was precise, credible, and, most importantly, shareable.

Image of Bridgeport maintenance worker photographing blocked street
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With the use of Veoci, we were able to understand that as citizens, we also have a responsibility to help the city with its efforts. As the EOC director reported that morning on News Channel 12, “there are 31 streets that were not in compliance with the alternate side parking ban. There are streets that nobody can get down, plows can’t get down, cars can’t get down.” Using Veoci, they were able to quickly identify problem streets and address them more efficiently.

City officials told reporters, “Thanks to Veoci we were able to get all the streets plowed by morning. This is a ground-breaking system.”

Brett Broesder, Bridgeport’s Communication Director, stated, “Veoci is helping our state’s largest city use 21st century technology to keep kids and families safer and more secure in the midst of adverse weather conditions.

Multiple departments are feeding into the system at all times, making it a central hub for coordinated information sharing that’s helping our Emergency Management and Public Facilities teams make well informed decisions. And, it’s helping to keep Mayor Finch and others better informed about what is happening at all times during a storm. It’s a big win for our city and residents, and it’s playing a key role in making Bridgeport better every day.”

 As for me, a long time resident of Bridgeport, this storm made me proud of our city and where the leadership is taking it. I appreciate Mr. Broesder’s words and I am extremely happy that Veoci is one of the innovative and forward-thinking things that my city is leveraging to enhance the lives of its citizenry.

View News Channel 12’s newscast on Veoci here:
“Bridgeport snow removal gets high-tech boost” (Updated February 22, 2015 6:17 PM)

Video stills credit: News Channel 12.

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