During the worst of Hurricane Sandy and communication systems in the city of Hoboken failed, forcing the city to "go back to basics," according to Mayor Dawn Zimmer.
Zimmer addressed a FCC Post-Superstorm Sandy Field Hearing at the Stevens Institute of Technology on Tuesday afternoon.
During three hours of panels, multiple speakers set out to discuss communication during and after the storm.
Zimmer was there to provide Hoboken's experience, which was troubled with technological difficulties.
Beside losing power in about 90 percent of the city, cell service was non-existent or spotty at best during the first days after the storm.
"At times my staff had to drive to the other end of town, where we knew there was better reception, just to update our website or send out a press release," Zimmer said Tuesday. "Phone calls from cell phones were almost out of the question. Text messages sometimes eventually went through. All but one of the land lines in our emergency operations center stopped working."
Beside external communications, the city's 911 system failed and the phones at the police headquarters stopped working right before the storm.
"At one point, PSE&G advised us that they were about to re-energize one of the three flooded substations. When that happens, there is the risk of fires starting due to power surges. Unfortunately, the 911 system had gone down at that time, and we had to ask PSE&G to wait for the 911 system to be restored before reenergizing the substation," Zimmer said. "Within an hour, we got news that the 911 system was back up and running, but it was an incredibly stressful situation."
While the 911 system went back up — and since Sandy a new reverse 911 system has been put in place — communicating with the residents of Hoboken continued to be a challenge.
Zimmer held daily 2 p.m. press conferences in front of City Hall. Volunteers went door to door, "post[ing] tens of thousands of flyers in English and Spanish all over town."
Ultimately, nobody in Hoboken was reported to have lost their life due to Sandy.
"I hope one lesson we take away from this experience," Zimmer concluded on Tuesday, "is the need to make our infrastructure more resilient and redundant to minimize the impact of future disasters."