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Regional News

How New York state prepares for the worst

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When disaster strikes, it generally is a surprise. But whether it's a natural disaster or a human-caused one, government entities can prepare for how to deal with them when they arise.

This week on “Take Care,” Commissioner Jerome Hauer of the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services discusses what New York state has done to prepare for emergencies. 

September 11 and Superstorm Sandy were two of the worst disasters to strike New York state in quite some time. And while those events primarily impacted New York City, upstate has seen it's fair share of debilitating weather events as well.  Tornadoes, hurricanes, flooding, and of course, blizzards all have created emergency situations in the region.

The border with Canada also creates a security issue, and New York has had home grown extremists in both upstate and New York City.

“Although New York City is the target, a lot of these plots to go into New York City are actually hatched and prepared outside the city and done upstate,” Hauer said.

Hauer said the Homeland Security Division does worst case planning. Hauer says they ask each county to look at what its worst nightmare could be. And they encourage the counties to work together and share resources.

“Our philosophy is if you’re prepared for the worst, you can pretty much handle anything," said Hauer. "It’s always easier to scale back a response than in the middle of a crisis trying to scale up.”

According to Hauer, New York is also the only state in the country that has ever evaluated preparedness of the counties. The Homeland Security Division works with the towns and counties to understand what they may need in various scenarios. If something happens the division respond right away and then evaluate it with the county. If they need help, they can provide it very quickly.

“We have somebody on the ground with them literally within a half hour depending on the location, sometimes even sooner,” Hauer said.

The governor wanted to put nine stockpiles around the state which would have generators, light towers, medical equipment, food, water, blankets, cots, etc.

Hauer said, the stockpiles have been placed all around New York as have water purification units, large generators that could power whole hospitals, big pumps to remove water from basements, tunnels, subways, treatment facilities and more.

“If a county is in trouble, we can go in with pretty much any kind of equipment to support them extremely quickly,” Hauer said.

During Superstorm Sandy, Hauer said, while there was plenty of fuel in the impacted regions, a lot of it couldn't be accessed, because there was no power to bring out of the tanks. The state has provided  generators and electric panels in gas stations along major routes.

The governor also decided to put two more diesel and gasoline reserves around the state along with the three million gallons already in place on Long Island. The goal is to have enough fuel to meet the needs of emergency response vehicles.

Hauer said Homeland Security teams realized prior to Hurricane Sandy, that FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) does not have kosher meals in their stock piles. They bought kosher meals so residents in areas with a high Jewish population could get meals they could eat.

“After any disaster, or after any drill, you always sit down and look at what went right, what went wrong and how you can better yourself,” Hauer said.