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Conn. official raps Bridgeport mayor’s post-Isaias alerts

BRIDGEPORT, Conn. (AP) – Bridgeport Mayor Joe Ganim shouldn’t have used an emergency alert system to lambaste a power company over its response to Tropical Storm Isaias, a Connecticut emergency-communications official said.

The alerts prompted hundreds of people to refuse future notifications, a newspaper reported.

“We believe this is an inappropriate use of the CT ALERT system,” statewide emergency telecommunications director William Youell wrote to the Democratic mayor’s administration. The Connecticut Post reported Sunday it obtained Youell’s recent letter through a Freedom of Information Act request.

The state urged the city to review its emergency notification procedures but didn’t impose any penalties, the newspaper said.

Ganim told The Post in a statement that city officials “greatly appreciate” state officials’ input, as well as their assistance in getting power restored after the storm’s Aug. 4 blow. Hundreds of thousands of Connecticut residents lost electricity for days, frustrating many local officials.

In text and phone messages sent through the system Aug. 6, Ganim accused local utility United Illuminating of “irresponsibility and arrogance,” said it has “ignored us,” mentioned that he’d told city lawyers to explore possible legal action, and urged residents to call the company and press it to restore power. The messages also provided information on how to seek help from the city.

At the time, Bridgeport emergency management chief Scott Appleby told The Post he was “more than comfortable” with using the alert system for what he described as telling residents where to call for help.

But Youell said the message wasn’t an emergency warning that would help residents take steps to stay safe, and it didn’t meet such usage guidelines as a lack of other adequate ways to disseminate the information an alert seeks to convey, according to The Post.

Moreover, 457 people responded directly to Ganim’s messages with requests to unsubscribe from the alert system, and ultimately as many as 1,700 residents are believed to have dropped the alerts around the time of the messages, Youell wrote.

Connecticut Department of Emergency Services and Public Protection spokesman Brian Foley told The Post that state are “trying to protect the integrity of the system and want citizens to have the same level of access to notifications in emergency situations.”

A message was sent to a UI representative Monday seeking comment on the state’s letter.

Last month, spokesperson Edward Crowder said it wasn’t the utility’s place to opine on whether the messages were appropriate, adding that its crews worked hard to restore service.

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