By Examining Decisions Made During Hurricane Sandy, Council Seeks Ways to Improve the Response to Future Storms
New York, NY – Today, the City Council held a hearing to examine emergency planning and management during and after Hurricane Sandy. Today’s meeting marks the first in a series of extensive hearings that will examine the City’s planning, response and recovery efforts before, during and after Hurricane Sandy.
In her opening statement, Speaker Quinn stated, “From the brave first responders who risked their lives during the storm, to the volunteers who stepped up immediately and continue to give their time to help New Yorkers get back on their feet, we pulled together as a City and came to one another’s aid. As we continue the recovery and rebuilding efforts, we must determine what was done right so we can repeat those successes in the future, and what went wrong so we can take steps to prevent those mistakes from being made again.”
During today’s hearing, Speaker Quinn and Council Members raised a number of significant concerns. Specifically, the Council examined:
• Communication and Coordination of OEM, city agencies and volunteers
The Speaker and Council Members examined OEM’s coordination with other agencies, community partners and volunteers. OEM’s role and efforts in reporting conditions and damage, as well as in determining specific community needs, was also discussed.
Additionally, questions were raised regarding the coordination of volunteer efforts. While there were a significant number of volunteers available to the City post-Sandy, there was reported confusion regarding organization and direction of volunteer efforts on a citywide level.
• Difficulties Faced by Vulnerable Populations During and After Sandy
A number of advocacy groups and local residents in affected areas have reported a lack of outreach to vulnerable populations. During a citywide emergency, specific and extra efforts are required in ensuring the needs of senior citizens, the medically frail, mentally disabled and others are met. Outreach to these New Yorkers takes special care, but also reaches heightened levels of importance in the midst of disaster response.
• 911/311 System Challenges
System operators were overwhelmed by the incredibly high call volume during the storm. As a result, 911 calls went unanswered or were directed to 311, which was also overwhelmed. As many as 200 to 300 people were on hold at a time on 311 lines, resulting in extraordinarily long wait times and delays in dispatching assistance.
In addition to Bloomberg Administration officials, emergency responders, weather experts, various advocacy groups and 911 and 311 system operators testified at today’s hearing. The Council’s hearings will continue throughout the coming weeks. In total, eleven hearings will be held over the course of seven weeks by more than twenty Council committees.