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article imageMayor Bloomberg signs a bills addressing NYC disaster management

By Matthew DeLuca     Aug 15, 2013 in Politics
Earlier this week, New York City Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, signed into law nine bills relating to the city’s disaster preparedness.
The provisions, passed by the city council, address key shortcomings in the city's response to the Hurricane Sandy that have become clear in the aftermath of the storm.
Two of the bills, signed into law this week, attempt to ensure the safety of individuals, who are exceptionally vulnerable during disaster situations, such as homebound individuals and those with special medical needs. Int-1053-A requires the formulation and implementation of a system by which to track individuals who utilize special medical needs shelters during emergency events. Int-1065-A similarly requires relevant New York City agencies to coordinate to implement “an outreach and recovery plan to assist vulnerable and homebound individuals.” The law additionally established a Door-to-Door Task Force responsible for locating and assisting vulnerable individuals during emergency events.
Most notably, Int-1065-A requires the “development of a mechanism for utilizing lists of homebound and vulnerable individuals,” compiling information from lists “maintained by community based organizations, service providers and relevant agencies ,including but not limited to the department for the aging, the department of health and mental hygiene, the department of social services, the human resources administration, and the New York city housing authority.” City Officials hope the list will streamline the emergency response system and better ensure the health and safety of vulnerable individuals during emergency situations.
The second group of four bills require city departments to develop emergency access plans. Int-1069-A requires the city to create an emergency food and water access plan to ensure that food and water can be effectively distributed in an emergency, and Int-1070-A requires the examination of shelter locations and resources to ensure the network of shelters are able to adequately provide services during emergencies.
Int-1076-A requires an emergency traffic plan and Int-1077-A creates an emergency fuel management system. Both laws give higher priority to vehicles that are responding to the emergency or are involved in the relief effort. Int-1077-A also requires the city to evaluate its need for contingency fuel reserves in order to determine how much fuel should be set aside for emergency situations.
Two additional bills, Int-1054-A and Int-1072-A, seek to codify the response to disasters, using the recovery from Hurricane Sandy as a blueprint. The bills emphasize a cooperation and coordination of community, business and nonprofit entities within communities as well as the leveraging of federal, state and local resources to aid in the recovery effort.
Finally, Int-1075-A requires the Office of Emergency Management to update the council upon preparation of any disaster response plans. This bill also requires that these plans be reviewed every two years, so as to keep them up to date.
It is clear that Hurricane Sandy has left a scar that many New Yorkers will not soon forget, but policy-makers are hoping the changes mandated by the law will prepare New York for the next disaster. Given the increasingly erratic weather patterns New York has seen over the past few years, many fear that the next disaster is not far off--but, at least now, New Yorkers will have a plan.
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