Council seeks to improve communications system in disasters
The city’s emergency communication system will need vast improvements if residents are to stay safe when the next disaster hits, according to Councilmember Mark Treyger, who took part in a hearing focusing on proposed legislation aimed at fixing the problem.
Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-Bensonhurst) is chairman of the council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency. His committee recently held a joint hearing with the Committee on Fire and Criminal Justice, chaired by Councilmember Elizabeth Crowley (D-Glendale) to discuss two bills he proposed that he said would ensure that public communications systems are better equipped to handle future storms.
The Nov. 20 hearing also focused on problems with the city’s communications infrastructure in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy; problems that included delays in reaching a 911 dispatcher in a timely manner. Treyger also said that cell phone landline phone service for thousands of New Yorkers was unworkable after the hurricane.
One of Treyger’s bills would require the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to develop a plan for the resiliency and recovery of public communications networks. The other bill would require OEM to develop emergency preparedness materials tailored to the risks faced in particular neighborhoods that would include local resources available in the aftermath of a storm or emergency.
“These two bills are driven by a single idea – communication and information is how we prepare for, how we survive, and how we recovery from emergencies. It is our responsibility in city government to ensure that the public has access to the information they need to during and after the next major storm or emergency. We saw in southern Brooklyn and other vulnerable neighborhoods around the city just how easily a storm can disrupt communications options for thousands of residents, and the need for residents to be prepared on a neighborhood level,” Treyger said.
“These bills are smart legislative changes that will go a long way toward keeping New York City safe. We cannot allow the mistakes of Superstorm Sandy to be repeated,” Crowley said.
Among those testifying in support of Treyger’s legislation was Eric J. Hebert, who lives in Warbasse Houses in Coney Island serves as the local Deputy Team Chief for the city Office of Emergency Management’s Community Emergency Response Team.
“My building was hit with an eight-foot flood. We were not prepared for what happened that night. This legislation will provide OEM with the resources to get more focused information directed at the unique needs of my specific neighborhood. We have large Russian and Spanish speaking communities where I live in Coney Island. Many of our residents live in high rise co-ops or NYCHA housing. We need a targeted program to educate our neighbors in how to prepare for, to survive and recover from all forms of disasters and incidents,” Hebert said.
Treyger said he drafted the two bills out of concern for the challenges faced by residents in vulnerable and hard-hit coastal neighborhoods like Coney Island, Sea Gate, Brighton Beach, Rockaways, lower Manhattan and Staten Island.
The legislative package is currently being revised before being put to a vote in the committee.
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