NEW YORK—A pair of commissions tasked by Gov. Andrew Cuomo with learning from what went wrong during Hurricane Sandy have recommended bolstering the National Guard, and Cuomo said he would support allotting state funding for it.
“The National Guard was probably our prime asset in response everywhere,” said Cuomo on Thursday during a meeting with the commissions’ co-chairs to discuss preliminary recommendations on how the state could be better prepared for future natural disasters.
About 10,000 part-time guardsmen are stationed in New York. The federal government provided $865 million for the New York Army and Air National Guard in 2010 while New York state spent $38 million, according to a state report.
Our recommendation is to make them more applicable in these disasters because “they can do a lot of things for you,” like quickly getting power up and running, said Adm. Thad Allen, co-chair of the NYS Respond Commission.
More than 2 million people lost power from the hurricane, and the storm forced 400,000 people to evacuate while damaging or destroying thousands of houses. Months later, the rebuilding continues.
Allen also recommended taking “a real thoughtful look” at stockpiling supplies, and working with experts in the private sector, such as electricians and transportation professionals.
Cuomo said he favored forming a list of people in the private sector who could be reached in future emergencies. Various areas across the state suffered in the storm’s aftermath from a lack of qualified electricians and other tradespeople.
“We were literally, ‘Who knows electricians, and where’s the association of electricians, and how do you find them when the power is down so they’re not answering the phone?’” said Cuomo.
Cuomo said stockpiling is critically important, because “it’s hard to find 10,000 generators on a Wednesday.”
“During Sandy we were begging for electricians who could help hook up generators once we found them, to get the gas out of the tanks in the gasoline stations,” he said. “It’s shocking how quickly chaos can set in,” he added.
Problems caused by a several-day break in the state’s delivery routes were compounded during the storm’s aftermath by gas stations in some areas being unable to pump gas without power. The commission recommended requiring gas stations in vulnerable areas to have an adequate backup power supply.
Cuomo intends to discuss the costly backup generators in his upcoming State of the State address on Jan. 9. “Other states do it, by the way,” said Cuomo. “There are other states that mandate backup generators in certain stations in certain parts of the state.”
Some of the other recommendations from the commission involve upgrading building codes and beefing up backup systems at key places such as hospitals.
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