Lack of communication, inadequate backup power among flaws cited

In the wake of superstorm Sandy, Rutgers University secured its campus by hosting emergency shelters for more than 7,000 state and local residents who were forced from their homes, and its contributions were recognized last summer by the New Jersey Office of Homeland Security.

But the worst storm to impact New Jersey in decades also exposed flaws in the university’s emergency-response system.

Those are some of the findings in a 264-page report detailing Rutgers’ preparedness and response to Sandy, a document presented to the university on March 28 but withheld from the public until late Monday night when it was released to the media and posted on the university website.

“The task force report was a useful and important exercise to assess the university’s readiness and subsequent response to Sandy in order to determine where Rutgers could improve its processes to respond to similar emergencies in the future,” said Steve Keleman, director of the university’s Office of Emergency Management. “While there were many positive findings, the university knows there are always opportunities to learn and improve.”

The findings in the report are not controversial, but the events surrounding its release were. At a Sept. 27 University Senate meeting, Rutgers President Robert Barchi spoke about a 275-page Sandy report that, he said, detailed the coordinated efforts of the many university units and individuals, “whose dedication and service helped limit the impact of this devastating storm.”

Following the lead of a university employees’ union, several media outlets, including the Home News Tribune, , requested the report through the state’s Open Public Records Act. University officials delayed the release of the internal document to redact “material that poses a security concern,” its Office of General Counsel said in an OPRA response earlier this month.


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