2006-06-09 / Front Page

New Hurricane Plan Unveiled

By Brian Magoolaghan

The Office of Emergency Management will present its new hurricane evacuation plan next week at a meeting in Rockaway, and the public is being urged to attend.

"This is a very important topic," OEM spokesperson Jarrod Bernstein told The Wave. "People need to know what the plan is and what their responsibilities are."

Bernstein said members of OEM's Coastal Storm Outreach Team will attend, and Maryann E. Marrocolo, the agency's director of plan management, is scheduled to give the 45-minute to 1 and a half-hour presentation using PowerPoint illustrations. The new plan, he said, is "not a paradigm shift," but instead adds "new features" to the plan OEM had in place last hurricane season.

Contrasting the new plan with the human body, Bernstein said OEM is using the same skeleton but has put "more meat on the bones."

"People should attend," he urged.

Community Board 14 District Manager Jonathan Gaska echoed Bernstein's sentiments this week. "If people want to know what's going on, they should attend," he said. "I think we'll get a decent crowd."

Gaska, who was present when board members and Rockaway Residents laced into Marrocolo with criticism in January, said he is encouraged by OEM's subsequent visits and their collaboration with the community.

"I expect [the plan] to be better than what they had before," said Gaska. "Hopefully they've addressed the concerns; they haven't given us a draft."

The Wave recently met with OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno, who gave us a glimpse of what the plan has in store. The number of evacuation shelters has been increased from 23 to 65, according to the commissioner. The number of hurricane shelters has been increased from 100 to 511 and has the capacity to house 600,000 people displaced by a storm. He also stressed that Rockaway and Broad Channel residents "have obligations" to plan and prepare for an evacuation or sheltering at home.

Bruno is not expected to be in Rockaway next week, when the plan is presented at Community Board 14's monthly meeting on Tuesday, June 13, 7:45 p.m. at the Knights of Coulumbus on Beach 90 Street.

The presentation comes as the northeast is about two weeks into the six-month-long hurricane season. Although New York has avoided a major hurricane for decades, AccuWeather meteorologists are now saying that this year's forecast looks "ominous."

Newsday recently reported that OEM would hold the city's "first-ever field exercise to its hurricante evacuation strategy" in Rockaway next month. Bernstein told The Wave this week that a drill is being planned, but said it definately will not take place on the peninsula or in Broad Channel.

"That's part of the area we would be evacuating," Bernstein explained. He said OEM is looking at locations in southern Brooklyn or Queens for the July exercise. "We don't have an exact location," he said.

For more information about OEM and hurricane preparedness, call 311 or go to www.NYC.gov/OEM

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