Freeholder Duffy: How Superstorm Sandy changed the way we communicate in emergencies | Paterson Times

Freeholder Duffy: How Superstorm Sandy changed the way we communicate in emergencies


Recent disasters and emergencies in New Jersey have made public officials aware of the power that social media has. As a Freeholder and Chair of the Health Committee, I know first-hand the difference that effective communication can have in an emergency.

Most of those who drowned during Superstorm Sandy were in evacuation zones. Additionally, many of the deaths from Sandy were avoidable, people trapped in their homes died from lack of medication, food and water, and carbon monoxide poisoning. While some people chose to ignore emergency messages, there has been a concerted effort to improve how we communicate to people.

Power outages from Superstorm Sandy rendered land lines and computers useless. Alternatively, citizens were able to charge their phones in their cars and the masses took to social media to get updates on the storm and to check in with family. Ever since, Passaic County has been conducting drills to test our communication skills on social media.

Our Health department will be having one of these drills in early April, and another in June. These exercises focus on our ability to communicate the issue, reduce panic, and how to reach the most people. During each drill, the Health Department is given a scenario such as West Nile and E. Coli. Throughout the drill they are given updates and changes which they must respond to in real time, just as if it was a real emergency.

The proliferation of social media not only gives us the ability to communicate with the public, but empowers them to communicate with us as well. We encourage everyone in Passaic County that is interested in our services and community to follow us on social media.

Terry Duffy
Passaic County Freeholder