NORTH ADAMS -- Representatives from local and regional organizations met with town officials at the First Baptist Church on Friday morning to reflect on Tropical Storm Irene and to brainstorm on what can be done better in preparation for the next major storm.
One thing they agreed could have been executed better was communication.
Andrea Peters, who lives on Columbia Street in Adams, said she doesn't mind getting information from her neighbors, but the information she was getting from them during the evacuation of the Columbia Street neighborhood made her panic even more than she already was.
"At that point, I had no idea what was still coming. To be in that spot at that moment was very confusing, and I did not know what to do next," she said.
A city resident said Facebook was an amazing way for her to keep tabs on the storm and stay informed of local developments.
Another person said that while the Internet is one way to get information to people, traditional methods such as radio shouldn't be ignored.
Al Bashevkin, executive director of the Northern Berkshire Community Coalition, said one thing he would like to see is more communities taking advantage of the Mass 211 phone system to get information out to residents in emergencies.
"It should be used as a resource," he said. "It's a statewide system people can call in an emergency, and there should be someone there to answer their questions."
Williamstown Town Manager Peter L. Fohlin said one lesson that should be carried forward from Irene is that people who do know, do listen.
In the case of The Spruces Mobile Home Park, town officials knew that there were going to be problems at the park with flooding, and park residents were advised to leave no later than 7 a.m. on the Sunday the storm hit, he said.
"If there is a success story, it is that out of roughly 240 residents, 200 left," he said.
Officials agreed that another way to improve communication and empower residents during a major storm is to provide opportunities for people to learn how to prepare and be self-sufficient.
Mike Britton, program coordinator for Citizens Emergency Response Training, and Corinne McKeown, associate director of the Berkshire Medical Reserve Corps, explained how their programs train residents to help themselves and others during natural disasters.
"What you do to train people to not need us is incredibly important because there are always more people who need help than people we have to help them," Fohlin said.