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Cuomo outlines emergency preparedness initiative

Carlet Cleare
WXXI (file photo)

In his annual State of the State address Wednesday, Gov. Andrew Cuomo outlined a major initiative to ramp up New York’s capacity for dealing with natural disasters.

Part of the multi-million dollar proposal involves installing a state-of-the-art weather detection system to provide more accurate, real time warnings.

The system would incorporate 125 interconnected weather stations across the state, and provide predictive modeling as well as real-time data on localized air, wind, soil and radiation conditions.

Keith Tidball, coordinator of the state’s extension disaster education network, says the faster warnings get out, the better.

“This challenge of detection and dissemination is a very large one, especially as the incidents that we face become more severe and more frequent. So I think those early warning systems, those rapid detection systems are critical,” Tidball says.

But, even with earlier warnings, he says more work needs to be done to use social media channels and smart devices for communication during emergencies.

Detection is only part of the issue, according to Tidball. Dissemination and responses on the ground can still cause issues.

Emergency preparedness college

Cuomo’s plan aims to address the issue of response by creating a college of emergency preparedness, homeland security, and cybersecurity in partnership with the SUNY system.

Tidball says cultivating a culture of preparedness and resilience in the state is vital.

“Clearly the capacity in this state exists among the SUNY partners and others as well. So it’s a hugely exciting opportunity to exert some leadership in academia as well as in policy and practice.”

In addition to formal courses in emergency preparedness and security, the Cuomo administration is also proposing an initiative to create a volunteer corps of citizen first responders.

Citizen first responders

This third prong of the statewide plan aims to better equip communities to deal with severe weather events.

Beginning this month, the state National Guard and Department of Homeland Security will offer free emergency response training in communities with the goal of training 100,000 New Yorkers. Tidball says training citizens will allow faster response and easier recovery.

“If we’re really, seriously going to attack the increase in these kinds of events, then starting with the citizenry is critical.”

The state has experienced nine disasters over the past three years, and Cuomo says extreme weather needs to be seen as an ongoing reality of life.

WXXI/Finger Lakes Reporter for the Innovation Trail