2006-05-26 / Community

New Hurricane Plan Released Around June 1st

Recent Study Says You're Not Prepared Forecasters See 'Ominous' Pattern In Northeast
By Brian Magoolaghan

The Office of Emergency Management is getting ready to release next month its reworked hurricane preparedness plan - just as forecasters say New York could get hit with a major storm this season, and a new study says people aren't really prepared.

The Wave recently met with OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno at the agency's temporary headquarters under the Brooklyn Bridge. Bruno said the comprehensive plan his staffers have been working on will be "rolled out very close to June 1."

"The only reason I haven't put it out yet is that we're still working on it," said Bruno, who added that he wants to ensure that OEM is prepared to do all of the things the plan says it will do.

The new plan increases the number of evacuation shelters from 23 to 65; the number of hurricane shelters from 100 to 511 - with the capacity to temporarily house 600,000 people displaced by a storm. "The maximum amount that we will ever need," Bruno says.

But the commissioner was also quick to point out that hurricane preparedness is not solely OEM's responsibility. "People have obligations also," he said. Since all Rockaway and Broad Channel residents are in an evacuation zone, they need to figure out where their evacuation center is and assemble - in advance - what they need to take with them.

"That's something they should be doing - some planning. They live on a barrier island or they live very close to the coast," Bruno said.

The commissioner also addressed the question of whether or not people are actually getting on the preparedness bandwagon. "We know people are preparing more and more," he said. Bruno cited a New York University poll that showed more than 50 percent of people say they have put together a plan. "Now, I don't believe that's probably true. Maybe they've thought about it," Bruno said.

But a study released this week by the NYU and the American Red Cross in Greater New York says we still have a long way to go. "Our findings indicate that many citizens still lack critical emergency supplies, training, and well practiced plans," said the Red Cross' CEO, Theresa A. Bischoff.

One troubling finding in the report says that 81 percent of New Yorkers polled would follow evacuation orders. Apply that fairly optimistic percentage to Rockaway's population of about 115,000 people and nearly 22,000 people still elect to stay put.

Meanwhile, all of this planning, preparation talk, the observance of Hurricane Preparedness Week this week and a rise in local preparedness events, comes as AccuWeather's Hurricane Season Forecast 2006 says New England has been "spared" from a major storm for decades. "We are entering a stage where one or two major Northeast hurricanes of great concern within the next 10 years and, this year, the ingredients look ominous." AccuWeather says the North American Climate/Hurricane Cycle is following a pattern "very reminiscent of the conditions experienced in the 1930s" - when, in 1938, New York was socked with a major hurricane.

For more information about OEM and hurricane preparedness, call 311 or go to www.NYC.Gov/OEM. To see the Red Cross study, go to www.NY RedCross.org. And to see AccuWeather's forecast, go to www.Accu Weather.com

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