PURA Asks Town About Emergency During Isaias Aftermath
An incident in Newtown illustrating hazards related to a delay in Eversource’s “make-safe” response in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Isaias has caught the attention of state regulators.
As a result of a request by the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority (PURA), details have emerged about a situation that developed when emergency responders were temporarily delayed in answering a call from Newtown Rehabilitation and Health Care Center, Toddy Hill Road.
First Selectman Dan Rosenthal told The Newtown Bee that emergency vehicle access to the sprawling 150-plus bed facility and its patients was blocked by fallen trees and live electrical wires that had been called in as a top priority concern to the regional utility. After that incident came up at a recent PURA hearing regarding the utility’s make safe response in Newtown, the first selectman said regulators requested additional details on it, and will likely call Rosenthal back to provide additional testimony.
Rosenthal, in partnership with the first selectmen of Bethel, Ridgefield, and New Fairfield, does not believe the utility was prepared for the intensity of the storm, leaving the communities vulnerable for days — and they asked PURA to determine accountability for the situation. PURA’s Chair Marissa Paslick Gillett opened a hearing on Eversource’s response to those communities in mid-December.
“It was almost 24 hours before that access was cut open,” Rosenthal said during an interview January 4. “But the night of the storm we had an emergency call there. At that time [responders] called Eversource again, but they ended up having to use ATVs to drive around the downed wires to get that patient to the hospital.
“And it remained blocked into the next day,” the first selectman added. “But Eversource told PURA that it wasn’t reasonable for them to be expected to have make-safe crews everywhere.”
Local emergency dispatch records confirm that at about 7:32 pm on August 6, medical responders were called to transport an “unconscious, unresponsive patient” from the facility. Upon the arrival of the first fire responders called to assist the ambulance crew, they found “many trees and wires down hindering [the removal] process.”
By 7:52 the call log shows staff from the facility had made a path to the street, but it was not wide enough for any ambulance or fire apparatus to get through. At that time, Botsford volunteer firefighters responded with their quad to get the patient out.
Arriving at 8:02 pm with the quad, fire volunteers completed the transfer of the patient to the ambulance for evaluation and transport to a local hospital at around 8:20 pm.
“On PURA’s request, I have shared the timeline and dispatch files with our attorney,” Rosenthal said. “And as a result I expect to be called back to address questions sometime next month.”