One year after Sandy, new preparedness agreement designed to strengthen disaster response

BY MICHAEL RICONDA

P1000501 P1000502 P1000504New City – A new emergency preparedness agreement reached between state and local officials and Orange & Rockland designed to enhance response time and efficiency was announced on October 29, the one year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy.

As part of a task force of local and state leaders, State Senator David Carlucci helped to broker a deal between Clarkstown officials, Orange & Rockland and local labor. In particular, close cooperation was sought with Highway Department personnel such as Highway Supervisor Wayne Ballard.

The state legislation will require gas and electric companies to submit emergency response plans to the state Public Service Commission, including plans to secure downed wires within 36 hours of notification. Non-compliance with this provision will carry hefty fines of up to $500,000.

“This is an important piece of legislation because downed wires can really paralyze a community,” Carlucci said. “We can’t cross over them and we can’t move on until those downed wires have been taken care of.”

In addition, a memorandum of understanding was reached allowinga team of supplemental local workers trained under Local Laborers 17/754 to be bid on for cleanup and repair operations through O&R.

“Now we’ve worked with local laborers and they have been proactive and trained over 200 of their men and women to be ready to respond to an emergency situation,” Carlucci said.

Superstorm Sandy revealed a need for Rockland to improve its response to weather emergencies. Though power was restored to the entire county, outages affected 80 percent of O&R customers and responses were often hindered by difficulties with stretching out resources and coordinating responses.

The response was also criticized for heavy use of out-of-state labor rather than local workers, an issue rectified by the new memorandum of understanding.

O&R has also been at work making infrastructural improvements since Sandy. They have already begun to implement a three-year, $35 million program meant to enhance outage recovery time and improve power grid resiliency with mechanisms such as strengthening of key locations in the overhead system, undergrounding other strategic spots, and expanding automation of circuit functions to help isolate power problems.

Additional state-level plans were also announced this week in time for the anniversary. A new Emergency Disaster Protocol established by Governor Andrew Cuomo was designed to expedite the loss recovery process for insurers, allowing them to efficiently process claims in a timely fashion.

The state program also allows emergency licensing of claims adjustors, establishes a voluntary mediation process, temporarily suspends policy cancellations in affected areas for non-payment of premiums, provides access to immediate critical repairs, broadens proof-of-loss documentation and rates insurance company performance with an online report card.