Cuomo Announces Major Initiatives to Improve NYS Disaster and Emergency Response Capabilities

February 22, 2012 Updated Feb 22, 2012 at 2:02 PM EDT

By WKBW News

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Cuomo Announces Major Initiatives to Improve NYS Disaster and Emergency Response Capabilities

February 22, 2012 Updated Feb 22, 2012 at 2:02 PM EDT

(WKBW release) New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo on Wednesday announced a series of major initiatives to transform New York State's disaster and emergency response capabilities.

According to a news release, the initiatives include creating five Regional Disaster Logistics Centers to serve as staging areas and store emergency equipment; launching a state agency emergency network to coordinate disaster response equipment; establishing Regional Rapid Response and Incident Management Teams to expedite deployment and coordinate with local governments; creating a statewide network of emergency responders; hosting a statewide Emergency Preparedness conference; and selling unnecessary and outdated equipment.

"We learned from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee that we must be ready and have the capabilities to respond to all emergencies. Our state's first responders are second to none, but they need a highly coordinated network to support them," Governor Cuomo said. "Today we are launching a series of new actions to ensure that our first responders are properly equipped to respond quickly and effectively in an emergency anywhere and anytime."

The initiatives come after a Governor-ordered review following Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee revealed both strengths and weaknesses in the state's emergency response capabilities. While New York's first responders showed tremendous leadership and ability, the review found shortcomings in the state's coordination and preparation, including assets not being aligned with needs, a lack of resources pre-deployed to regions in the storms' paths, and response units with outdated equipment in place. The Governor tasked Jerry Hauer, the State's Commissioner of the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) and a nationally recognized emergency management expert, to lead an overhaul that is designed to make New York's emergency response system the best in the country.

"One of my first priorities was to assess the State's disaster asset inventory," said Jerome Hauer, DHSES Commissioner. "We found that much of the equipment was inadequate to support an effective disaster response. By establishing these Disaster Preparedness Centers, we are ensuring that State and local responders have the right tools to respond to emergencies more rapidly and effectively. Governor Cuomo tasked me to create the best emergency operations system in the country, and this major overhaul has the potential to make New York State a national leader in disaster response capabilities."

Create Five Regional Disaster Logistics Centers

DHSES will work with state agencies, the National Guard, and localities to put in place five Disaster Logistics Centers in key regional locations across the New York State. When completed, the state will have a total of five regionally located stockpile and staging areas that can be used to store emergency equipment and rescue vehicles, and provide expedited assistance to local governments during emergencies. The Disaster Logistics Centers will ensure that the state has resources and equipment pre-positioned in areas where they would be most needed during an emergency. The Centers will be located in the North Country, Western New York, Hudson Valley, Southern Tier, and Long Island.

Placing the Right Equipment and Supplies in the Right Place

The Regional Disaster Logistics Centers will ensure that the right vehicles and equipment are in the right place to respond rapidly to an emergency situation. Vehicles including ATVs, snowmobiles, high-clearance DOT trucks, and swift water rescue boats will be regionally positioned so they can be deployed immediately. The centers will also have pre-positioned equipment and supplies, including generators, pumps, water filters, specialized rescue equipment, communications equipment, and personal care items such as food, water, cots and blankets

Statewide Emergency Network

To coordinate the emergency response equipment distributed across numerous state agencies, DHSES will create a centralized inventory of all state agency assets that can be used to support local governments during crises. The centralized inventory will also include a new vehicle identification system.

Establish Regional Rapid Response and Incident Management Teams

Regional Rapid Response Teams

DHSES will organize ten new Rapid Response Support Teams (RRSTs) that will align with the new response areas to promptly deploy in emergency situations and coordinate state support with local governments. The RRSTs will be co-led by State Commissioners that have been specially trained in emergency management and State Office of Emergency Management regional directors. The teams will also include representatives from the State Office of Emergency Management, State Police, National Guard, and other agencies.

Incident Management Teams

DHSES will create five additional regionally-based Incident Management Teams (IMTs) comprised of local public safety and first response personnel who have received specialized training to support localities and provide expertise during emergency situations. New York currently has one state-level and two locally-based IMTs, each of which was instrumental in supporting disaster operations in two heavily flooded counties during the late summer storms of 2011.

First Responder Network and Statewide Credentialing System

DHSES will create a new statewide network of first responders that will give localities access to emergency response personnel when needed. The network will enhance uniform training across regions and agencies, and include an inventory of skills to help match first responder expertise with emergency needs. The process is designed to create the best trained core of first responders in the country, and will include one of the nation's first statewide credentialing systems to ensure that emergency personnel are given rapid access to disaster scenes.

Statewide Conference

Governor Cuomo will host a statewide Emergency Management Summit this summer that will involve emergency management professionals from across the state and feature nationally and globally recognized experts on terrorism, natural disasters, and emergency preparedness.

Sale of Unnecessary Equipment

The Governor-directed review found an excess of unnecessary and outdated emergency response equipment. Unused equipment will be recalled for assessment or sold, and useable equipment will be centralized at the 5 DHSES Regional Disaster Logistics Centers.