The National Weather Service issued a blizzard warning for New Haven — in July of all times.
And some schoolkids had to figure out how to keep New Haven safe.
The preparation took place week inside New Haven’s emergency management center at 200 Orange St.
It was a mock preparation. The participants were kids enrolled in a three-week New Haven Youth Tennis and Education (New HYTEs) camp.
Rick Fontana, who as city government’s emergency management chief runs the center, delivered a mission to his young visitors at the start of the week: You have four days to prepare the city for the emergency.
On Friday, the campers reconvened in the room to present how they could work together to ensure shelter, food and medical services in the case of a blizzard.
Campers were divided into five groups, with one representing each of the fire department, police department, traffic agency, community and elderly service, and Yale University. In the next few days, they will brainstorm and debate ideas at their camp at the Connecticut Open stadium.
While putting forth solutions, the groups also kept an eye out for budget.
“Do you want to be the fire chief? I think you can do it,” Fontana said to Tyler Saxton after his presentation. Saxton delivered a plan on behalf of the fire department and took into consideration the clearing of snow from fire hydrants.
Fontana followed up on his idea and explained to the campers that in New Haven, all fire hydrants are located on the odd side of the road.
“That’s why we say, ‘Don’t be the odd man out there; park on the even,’” Fontana said.
Linnette Gonzalez, 11, was in charge of community and elderly services. In her presentation, Gonzalez noted the need for shelters and warming centers for the homeless people. She also paid attention to the elderly who might be stuck in their houses.
Indeed, Fontana said, many elderly have trouble getting access to dialysis appointments during extreme weather. The center coordinates with the National Guard to help them.
Fontana did more than evaluate the kids’ work. He explained the behind-the-scenes, day-to-day operation in the emergency operations center.
In case of a weather emergency, he always starts meetings with the forecast
“The first thing we’re gonna look at is, ‘Are we going to close schools?’” he said. That won giggles and cheers from the campers.
He then showed different cameras covering the Green, various neighborhood, and the harbor, before demonstrating how to zoom in, zoom out and spin around to adjust the camera.
Much to the kids’ surprise, Fontana told them that there is a camera at every stairwell in every New Haven school. “The reason I show you this is that we can see everything.” Fontana said cameras are crucial in deterring crimes and tracking down suspects.
He wrapped up the presentation by demonstrating the alarm system as well as maps showing snow emergency routes.
Jeffrey Solano, 10, was surprised to learn that the city’s emergency alarms — which he has heard several times — came from a single basement room.
Another camper, Chloe Lomax-Blackwell, said she has family members who served in the police department. She called it refreshing to “learn about their world.”
Fontana said he hopes that by introducing the procedures, he might interest some young people in careers in public service.
“I think they should continue” this exercise, Gonzalez said. “Some children like to go into careers in public service but they don’t know how it feels like actually doing it.”