Preparing for the next storm
NY Senator Phil Boyle addresses the crowd at the workshop.

SCN/Chalifoux

Preparing for the next storm

Story By: RICK CHALIFOUX
9/17/2015


ISLIP TOWN—On Tuesday night, 4th District state Sen. Phil Boyle teamed up with the Islip Chamber of Commerce to present a Disaster Preparedness Workshop that was held at the Islip Fire Department. At the free event, which was open to all members of the public, government and emergency officials were on hand to discuss practical and helpful protection measures in the midst of hurricane season nearly three years after the onslaught of Superstorm Sandy.

“Though preparing for an emergency is daunting, the peace of mind that comes from it makes it worthwhile,” said Boyle. “The end result of a few simple tasks can make all the difference when it comes to the safety and well-being of you and your family.”

The first presenter was Patrick Beckley, Region 1 director of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services. Beckley detailed various initiatives designed to improve the state’s reaction and response to major events, including NY Responds, County Emergency Preparedness Assessment (CEPA), stockpiling of fuel/equipment, and an Emergency Management Certification and Training Program for county executives, county emergency managers, and local officials/first responders.

“NY Responds will anchor New York’s emergency planning and response mechanisms with unprecedented levels of coordination between state agencies and local governments,” said Beckley.

Key components of NY Responds include universal statewide emergency management software, incident and asset tracking, real-time weather forecasting, and a recently announced Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Forward Operations Plan, which establishes clear lines of communication between the State Emergency Operations Center in Albany and local municipalities.

Meanwhile, CEPA is a process in which a county or a city can assess its emergency preparedness based on what it deems to be the most relevant threats.

“CEPA identifies a jurisdiction’s strengths and weaknesses to respond to various incidents,” said Beckley. “It allows the state to properly prepare for incidents by prepositioning assets at stockpiles that may be needed by local responders.

“We’ve come a long way in the field of emergency management,” added Beckley. “We’re on the right path, and we’re going even further.”

Elaine Biller and Maureen Sukhram of the American Red Cross Citizens Preparedness Corp. offered key words of advice on how residents could personally prepare their households for future storms and encouraged them to develop their own course of action during any major disaster. The audience was encouraged to begin preparing as soon as possible by storing up emergency supplies, assembling a go-kit, developing a family disaster plan, exchanging emergency contact information, communicating with family/friends about preparedness, and downloading Red Cross mobile disaster applications online.

“We’re preparing for you,” said Biller. “But, there is no way anybody can respond to you quickly enough when it’s you. When it’s you, you want it [right away], but that’s not going to happen.

“It’s not a failing of the system,” she continued. “It’s simply a matter of supply and demand. Your response teams will be there, but we need to make sure that you can take care of yourself [in the meantime]. You are the first responder.”

The final presenter was David Wally, senior forecaster and tropical cyclone team leader at the National Weather Service in Upton. Wally detailed the latest technological methods the organization is using to track any potential hurricane activity in the region, and offered its current predictions for the near future.

“Our mission is to save lives and property,” said Wally. “We do that by issuing timely forecasts, watches and warnings. Our goal is to issue the most accurate forecast. From that we can assess the threat and then what the potential impact is for you.”

Wally said that the official 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Seasonal Outlook called for a “quiet season” with a 90-percent below-normal seasonal forecast.

“The main reason for this is a very strong El Niño… that has reduced the number of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin,” he said. “Also the sea surface temperatures… are near or even just below normal tier.”

However, Wally encouraged the audience to remain informed and prepared, reminding them that it only takes one storm to translate into a bad season. He encouraged residents to utilize the many resources available to stay up-to-date on any potential future weather events.

“No two storms are alike,” said Wally. “A very quiet season [could still] have one major catastrophic hurricane.” 

IMPORTANT CONTACT INFORMATION

To contact the New York State Emergency Management Office (LI Regional Office) with questions, visit www.dhses.ny.gov, email OEM.REGION-1@dhses.ny.gov, or call 952-6322.

For more information on disaster and emergency preparedness, visit www.redcross.org/prepare or contact the American Red Cross (Suffolk County Office) at www.suffolkcounty.redcross.org or call 924-6700.

To stay up-to-date on regional forecasts and warnings through the National Weather Service, visit www.weather.gov.

To contact State Senator Boyle, email pboyle@nysente.gov or call the District Office at 665-2311.

Islip Town Hurricane Forum

The Town of Islip will host a Hurricane Preparedness Forum on Tuesday, Sept. 22 from 6-8 p.m. at Dowling College in Oakdale.

To register call: 224-5730 or email: emergencymanagement@islipny.gov.