Township adds tools to keep residents informed about winter weather

By MELISSA DIPENTO

With all the winter weather the region has been experiencing lately, Mt. Laurel Township Officials have implemented new procedures to help deal with the snow.

Township Manager Jennifer Blumenthal said the township could have done better in dealing with the snowstorm that dumped more than a foot of snow last month.

“We met pre-storm and post-storm to talk about some areas that were lacking,” Blumenthal said. “Each snowstorm is a learning process.”

In Dec. 2009, Blumenthal recalled, the township was hit with more than two feet of snow.

“This was the first major snowstorm in decades, so we revised our emergency snow plan. It worked well in January and February 2010,” Blumenthal said.

Blumenthal said that policy was not strictly adhered to last month, but the township plans to revise its emergency plan and implement it for future storms.

The township is taking additional measures to make sure residents are informed about impending snowstorms.

To keep residents in the loop about snowstorms, the Office of Emergency Management launched the Ready or Not Web site last month. The site is updated with weather alerts, emergency warnings, school closings, road conditions, removal policies and tips to stay safe. The site, www.ready-or-not.org/NJ/mountlaurel, also includes contact information for Emergency Management, Fire, Police and EMS officials.

Links to the Ready or Not Web site can be found on the township, police, fire, Municipal Utilities Authority and EMS Web sites. The Ready of Not logo posted on the pages will spin when information is updated and available.

Blumenthal said new site has been adequately updated, providing residents timely information during snowstorms.

Residents can also sign up for Nixle, a free service that sends alerts, traffic and community information via text message and/or e-mail, informing Mt. Laurel residents of any incidents in the township. Residents can register at www.nixle.com.

Blumenthal said the township tried something new in last month’s snowstorm that proved successful.

The township, in cooperation with the Burlington County Office of Emergency Management, tested Global Connect, a web-based voice messaging service.

Blumenthal said the service is like a reverse 9–1–1 that calls every home and business when an emergency situation, such as a snowstorm, is in effect. The service, she added, will let a phone ring three times before ending the call. No messages will be left. Residents who wish to receive these updates on their cell phones as well can go to www.co.burlington.nj.us/pages/ps/globalconnect.htm.

The township has also experimented with Geo Salt this season, which Blumenthal said is more environmentally friendly, compared to regular rock salt. The Geo Salt works at a lower temperature and melts the snow faster.

Blumenthal said she is looking into the cost of Geo Salt to determine if it is feasible for the township to continue to use it. Blumenthal said the Geo Salt costs more, but less is needed.

Blumenthal said she will also look into what this season will cost in terms of snow removal. Those figures are not yet available.