Problems with emergency medical services and the 911 emergency telephone system following Sandy will be on the table Wednesday in the first of several hearings probing New York City's response to the devastating superstorm.
Deputy Mayor for Operations Cas Holloway is scheduled to be on the hot seat as City Council members grill him about reports of problems in emergency service responses to the storm surge, which inundated low-lying areas. Holloway is expected to answer criticism from EMS union officials that poor management decisions as the storm's approach led to flooded ambulances and an uncoordinated response to the mass of calls which inundated the 911 and 311 telephone systems.
"The city stuck to its plan and [storm] preparation went well. The problem was with the effects," said Councilman Peter F. Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), head of the public safety committee.
Vallone's committee, as well as panels dealing with aging, mental health and disability, are chairing the unusual joint session to assess how the city implemented its hurricane preparedness plan and handled EMS operations. More than 40 people died in the city, mostly by drowning.
Also expected to be raised are allegations city officials delayed too long in calling for the evacuation of flood zone A, which are low-lying properties near the water, catching unprepared nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities which had to scramble to evacuate thousands of bewildered elderly and infirm patients as seawaters threatened their buildings.
In past interviews, Vallone said that City Hall had developed a fairly extensive hurricane preparedness plan, including the stockpiling of about 5,700 pallets of emergency supplies to support thousands of people for as much as a week. But union officials and others said when the storm hit, poor planning and a lack of timely evacuations led to about a dozen EMS units being flooded and stranded.
Israel Miranda, president of Uniformed EMTs, Paramedics and Fire Inspectors Local 2507, which represents EMS workers, said Tuesday he will testify to instances in which where emergency service units near the South Street Seaport weren't evacuated to higher ground in time. to higher ground.
The storm response by the New York City Housing Authority, which had at nearly 400 buildings impacted by the storm with widespread loss of power and hot water to many residential buildings, is slated for Thursday. Tens of thousands of residents in NYCHA buildings had to live without basic amenities for days. as the city struggled to repair infrastructure damage.
A hearing on the Metropolitan Transportation Authority response in the city is scheduled for Jan. 31.