NEW YORK—The Committee on Public Safety passed nine bills on July 23 meant to prepare New York City for emergencies. The bills are now awaiting vote by the City Council.
The legislative package is meant to resolve shortcomings identified during 11 City Council hearings convened in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, as well as the 59 recommendations from the “Hurricane Sandy After Action Report” prepared by deputy mayors Caswell Holloway and Linda Gibbs.
The bills are expected to pass the City Council near unanimously, said Public Safety Committee Chair Peter Vallone Jr. A veto from Mayor Michael Bloomberg is not expected.
The bills will require the commissioner of the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to present emergency plans by October 1. These will include managing critical resources including fuel, food and water; coordinating the recovery of communities and small businesses; plans to evacuate hospitals and stock emergency shelters; tracking people with special medical needs; and identifying vulnerable and homebound people and ensuring they have access to food, water, and medicine.
“We had hearings in ‘05 and ‘09 about hurricane preparation, but clearly the plan that was in place had a lot of flaws in it,” Vallone said. “These nine bills that we are passing today will go a long way in making us safer.”
Vallone said that people laughed and and quipped “fear-mongering” when he held the initial hearing on hurricane preparedness in 2005. Almost a decade later with hundreds of thousands of people affected by Hurricane Sandy, hurricane preparedness is no longer a laughing matter.
The fuel shortages that followed Hurricane Sandy brought harsh criticism. An investigation into the response of the city and state later identified that the shortages were caused by the lack of communication between city, state, and federal officials—many of whom were unclear about their roles in case of emergencies. One of the nine bills addresses this shortcoming and calls on OEM Commissioner Joseph Bruno to set up a plan to ration fuel in case of emergencies and improve communication between officials and representatives from the gas companies.
One of the nine bills also requires Bruno to revise the plans biennially and update the City Council about any changes and additions.
The OEM did not return a call for comment.