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Hook & Ladder Co.

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Learning Lessons From A Superstorm: Police acquire Humvees, municipalities developing emergency plans, Grid using tablets

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Halesite's newest truck, 222, was designed after Hurricane Irene with the ability to travel through deep water in mind.
re-posted from longislandernews.com

Story by Mike Koehler

Superstorm Sandy ravaged Long Island in late October, leaving more than a million in the dark and stranded with debris strewn about roadways.

The region was still recovering seven months later as the 2013 hurricane season began on June 1. Long Island even saw 5 inches of rain fall less than a week in from the remnants of Tropical Storm Andrea on Friday.

Although no major damage was reported, flooding was an issue, Suffolk County police said. Assistant Chief of Patrol Stuart Cameron said their patrol cars had trouble navigating deep waters.

They faced similar challenges during Sandy, and later, when 2 feet of snow fell during the February blizzard.

"We ended up utilizing military vehicles from the National Guard. It takes some time to mobilize resources like that. It requires a request go up to Albany and disasters unfold rapidly," Cameron said.

After the disasters ended, police began the process of acquiring surplus military vehicles. The federal government released three Humvees to the department at no charge; they arrived on June 5. Cameron said they are waiting to see what impact those three have before requesting additional vehicles or equipment.

Suffolk County's officers did a great job during the historic superstorm, the chief said, although Sandy created layers upon layers of problems to solve. The storm surge washed into communities, trees came down, downed lines and damaged transformers left 1.1 million powerless, traffic lights were not functioning and massive lines formed at gas stations across Long Island.

In the aftermath of Sandy, police eventually replaced officers directing traffic with generators connected to traffic lights at key intersections. Cameron said that will be included in a formal plan currently underway, as well as a list of gas stations with generators or in important locations.

"Hopefully if there's some type of severe weather event, we'll be in a better shape to respond," the chief said.

Suffolk County Legislator Steven Stern (D-Dix Hills) confirmed Fire, Rescue and Emergency Services (FRES) personnel were identifying gas stations with generators. He hoped that station owners would take advantage of state-offered incentives to purchase expensive generators.

Stern said the county is also working on two initiatives to protect the county's most vulnerable residents. The Joint Emergency Evacuation Plan (JEEP) program combines FRES and local law enforcement in identifying who would need help. The Protect Our Most Vulnerable act would require health care facilities to file evacuation plans with the county so patients and residents can be rescued appropriately.

The legislator added that the county's Department of Public Works is still examining and working on possible vulnerabilities to the county's infrastructure and assets.
LIPA Communications Director Mark Gross confirmed National Grid has updated its operations and communications procedures. Grid spokeswoman Wendy Ladd said that includes more press conferences to share information, more local calls with municipal leaders, using emails to reach customers, using tablets to collect data in the field, and working with municipalities on road-clearing protocols. PSE&G will continue this work when they take over running power plants from National Grid next year.

In Huntington, Dix Hills and Commack were two of the areas worst hit by Sandy. However, Dix Hills Fire Chief Tom Magno and Commack Fire Chief Peter Paccione said no changes have been made to their strategies.

"It's kind of tough to be prepared 100 percent for a storm like Sandy. It's a storm we've never had before," Magno said.

However, the Sandy experience, Paccione said, keeps the chief and his firefighters more alert.

Halesite Fire Chief Dan McConnell said Tropical Storm Irene in 2011 helped prepare his department for Sandy. That included buying more chainsaws and a new truck designed to traverse deep water.

"When we were configuring a new truck, we configured it to be ideal during hurricanes. We took delivery of that truck before Sandy and it proved to be invaluable," he said.

Town of Huntington spokesman A.J. Carter confirmed the town formed the Hurricane Sandy Emergency Review Task Force in February and is expected to release a draft report in the near future. Highway Superintendent William Naughton said his department is involved.




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