The following is a letter from Paul Malool, former OEM Coordinator for the township of Scotch Plains.
As reported in this newspaper, as well as others, I was “relieved of my duties” as the Scotch Plains Emergency Management Coordinator last Wednesday, the day after Election Day. Not coincidentally, I was removed by Mary DePaola, who lost the election for Mayor by an historic margin. DePaola cited “poor performance during and after the storm” as her reason to remove me from the position I have held for almost twelve years.
What she neglected to say is that it was her performance that was poor, before, during and after the storm. During my tenure in this position, I have prepared for, and responded to, 4 hurricanes, numerous extreme weather events including excessive heat, snow, nor’easters, and flooding, all without one complaint from anyone.
The difference between this storm and those events was that I had the full cooperation of the sitting Township Manager and Mayor each time. This time, however, they were nowhere to be seen.
The Township Manager, who lives an hour away, could not get into town many days, and the Mayor did not attend all the meetings, or answer phone calls or texts.
These two people are essential in a disaster, because they are the designated “Public Information Officers,” – the people responsible for communicating to the public and the press - as noted in the emergency plans that I have prepared every year which have been approved by the New Jersey State Office of Emergency Management.
I informed the Township Manager of this role on the pre-disaster meeting on the Friday before the storm, which was attended by neither the Mayor nor the Police Chief. I then informed the Mayor of this when I met with her to sign the emergency declaration.
In fact, this is why I continually sent updates to the Mayor so she could include them in her updates to the public. In addition, it is the mayor’s responsibility to interface with PSE&G. Each mayor should have the cell phone number of the regional representative for their town.
As an emergency planner for the past twenty years for the state and federal government,( including State Police and FEMA) and as one of only 1100 worldwide emergency managers certified by the International Association of Emergency Managers, I am confident that my preparation, response, remediation and recovery skills are unmatched.
During this storm, I set up a command post at the Southside Firehouse because it had a full generator and so that I would be able to respond to fire calls, because I am also a Battalion Chief in our volunteer fire department.
If the manager or mayor needed to charge their cell phones so they could communicate better, perhaps they should have come to the command post.
I set up a shelter, acquired a generator (one that I have made requests to purchase for the last five years), set up a warming station, distributed MREs, organized the acquisition, storage and cooking of approximately 200 pounds of food for our senior citizens without power, while participating in numerous conference calls and meetings with the county and state OEMs.
While the mayor is entitled to appoint the emergency management coordinator, she is not entitled to rewrite history. A true leader takes responsibility for their actions – or inaction as the case may be.
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