Public Service Electric and Gas funneled incorrect information to Teaneck officials in the wake of Superstorm Sandy and the township should work to expand its own communications for future disasters, town council members and residents said Tuesday.
Despite numerous conference calls and a meeting with PSE&G’s chief executive, Teaneck still struggled to glean any useful information on the company’s power restoration efforts, officials said.
“We were misinformed and misled, whether it was due to incompetence or intentional misinformation, I am not entirely sure, but the result is the same,” said Deputy Mayor Adam Gussen.
In one briefing with PSE&G, Gussen said he was told crews started work at a Teaneck power station following the storm. In fact, Gussen said, those crews didn’t arrive until the weekend.
“When we talk about meaningful dialog with PSE&G, I feel like I was flat out lied to,” the deputy mayor said. “A lot of what we were being fed by PSE&G was inaccurate.”
PSE&G conducted “extensive outreach” to mayors and each was given a specific contact within the company, according to utility spokeswoman Karen Johnson. The company used e-mails and regular conference calls to update local leaders.
“We understand that everyone wanted their power restored -- and our crews were working as hard as they could to make that happen while dealing with the tremendous destruction Sandy left behind,” the spokeswoman said.
Officials were active on social media and sent Sandy updates through the town’s e-mail alert system. Councilman Elie Y. Katz shared information using his “Teaneck Tid-bits” e-mail blast and said he fielded nearly 4,000 messages through the storm’s aftermath.
Still, massive power outages across nearly the entire town have left officials to consider low-tech methods of keeping residents informed.
Councilman Henry Pruitt recommended using the police and fire stations as centers where residents can stop in for updates.
“It’s clear that whatever we did, we could have done better because this was a storm that we’ve never experienced before,” Pruitt said.
Neighborhood volunteers could hand out information in future storms, suggested Councilwoman Lizette Parker.
The town’s Community Relations Advisory Board also discussed a program to take care of elderly residents during storms, said Mayor Mohammed Hameeduddin.
Northeast Teaneck resident Leonard Knight said communication needed improvement.
“Not knowing what’s happening for two weeks is something that you have to rectify,” he told council members.
In future storms, residents could have more places to charge electronics and stay warm. Township Manager William Broughton said generators were approved for the Richard Rodda Community Center and the town had been given a supply of cots.
“Opening a shelter isn’t as easy as just opening the door and having a place. You have to care for the needs of individuals that may come to the shelters,” Broughton said.
The Red Cross and Bergen County officials are generally responsible for running shelters, he said.