Smithtown Officials Eye Radio Plan After Communication Snags

Public Safety Director believes town experienced problems similar to LIPA in communicating with residents in days after Hurricane Sandy.


Smithtown town officials have suggested the town consider starting an AM/FM radio station to improve its communication with residents due to problems after Hurricane Sandy.

"Without a doubt, the Town of Smithtown and resources pulled together and did a commendable job for our residents. It was seamless," said John Valentine, Smithtown's director of Public Safety and Emergency Management. "As result of that, we are far more organized and far more ahead of any municipality in the county."

Despite Valentine's glowing review of Smithtown's work in cleaning up the $5.3 million worth of damage from Sandy, he targeted one area for improvement - the town's communication with residents

"Where LIPA failed was lack of communication and information with the public, which brings me to our Achilles' heel - We share this communication issue with LIPA," he said.

The public utility has faced heavy criticism from state officials and Long Islanders for failing to provide real-time information on power restorations leaving residents in the dark.

Valentine said the town have several ways of communicating to its residents, both on the town's TV station and the town's new website. In the days following Sandy, Smithtown's website was regularly updated with information on resources available to those in need.

But he recognized the town's mediums of communication were rendered ineffective by the storm.

"Most people had no electricity and no TV. Computer access was intermittent at best within the first couple weeks. Our telephone systems were overwhelmed," Valentine said.

There were who were without power immediately after Sandy, with some lingering within power for more than two weeks.

Valentine suggested that Smithtown, along with other townships in Suffolk, should join together and create an AM or FM radio stations to broadcast crucial information in emergency situations - a system he says is still used in many rural areas of the Midwest. He argued that when other systems fail, battery-operated radios serve as resident's contact with the outside world.

"We need to figure out how the Town of Smithtown can better get information out to its residents without any political puff. To do this, do not reinvent the wheel but follow what is typical in rural America," he said.

The emergency management director accused many media outlets of screening information received from elected officials immediately after the storm, and selectively choosing it wanted to publish. He said few Smithtown residents received word the town had cell phone charging stations and offered free ice to residents without electricity in the days following the storm.

"We utilized every service we have available to get information out her e- its dwarfed by more interesting or played out events. We still need that same air space," Valentine said.

His idea was received by the town board, whose members kept quiet about their opinions on Valentine's suggestions. However, the public safety director believed the town could apply for federal or state funding to create a radio station.

The station would regularly be used for weather forecasts on a daily basis, then broadcast essential town-by-town information during emergencies.

We'd like to ask, do you feel Smithtown failed in communicating crucial information after Sandy? Do you think an AM or FM radio station would help?

Tell us in the comments below.

jozee December 19, 2012 at 12:50 PM
thanks j.valentine for bringing this to light, i had signed up before bellone was county executive for red alerts on my cell phone dont know what happened but there was no emergency alerts with sandy, i received nothing, dont know what happened to the county system, so if we need something on the local level its great
Charlie December 19, 2012 at 12:52 PM
First, get people to get a "Crank Radio", then start thinking about how to get to them. You can get information out via the Major stations also...
ym ss December 19, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Really great idea. We did not have cell phone service, so texts or phone messages would have been useless during Sandy. After scanning am/fm radio stations during the storm we finally found News12 broadcasts. However, not one word about Smithtown resources or local storm repair updates. Local information was greatly needed and clearly lacking in every way.
Rebecca Sobotkin December 20, 2012 at 03:45 AM
There are areas in Kings Park that do not have cellphone service. I believe that it is more important to ensure that residents have this service before establishing a radio station.
PatriceA January 06, 2013 at 01:16 PM
We need it all AM/FM plus texting,emails etc.get a satellite involved also Why limit ourselves by 1 technology Let's use all our resources for communication Better communication improves our response rate and may save lives


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