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State Sandy commissions make recommendations

Three days after superstorm Sandy, people wait in

Three days after superstorm Sandy, people wait in line with their gasoline cans in Deer Park. Some were getting gas for generators, others to fill up the tanks in their cars. (Nov. 1, 2012) Credit: Newsday/John Paraskevas

ALBANY -- Two state commissions Thursday recommended backup generators for gas stations in key areas, creation of a strategic fuel reserve and an emergency management training program to help reduce the potentially devastating impact of hurricanes and other severe storms.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, who created the panels on storm readiness and disaster response, said he would incorporate some of the ideas in his 2013 agenda, to be unveiled next week in his State of the State address.

Cuomo acknowledged that the proposals would be "very, very expensive," although the panels provided no cost estimates. New York is facing a $1 billion budget deficit by the end of the 2012-13 fiscal year on March 31.

"But I believe it is essential and I'm willing to invest [state] money in this area," the governor said.

Cuomo said he would consider how to ensure that certain gas stations have backup power, to prevent the long lines and customer panic seen after superstorm Sandy. Panelists defined these as stations along evacuation routes or in locations that serve as hubs for some communities.

Asked if the state ignored storm-preparedness requirements in the past, Cuomo said New York has gradually improved its systems, but not enough to keep pace with more frequent and severe storms.

"You have predictability and then you have probability," he said. "There is a feasibility [factor] with all these propositions and you have to weigh it against the probability and against the costs. You can be prepared for a lot of things, but the question is how much are you going to pay and what is the probability that those things will occur."

The state, under a 1978 law, is supposed to update its storm response plans regularly -- but that hasn't happened.

State legislative reports have been warning for years that New York could be hit with a major hurricane or other storm and suffer significant coastal damage. A 2006 Assembly report -- prepared after Hurricane Katrina savaged the Gulf Coast -- said: "It's not a question of whether a strong hurricane will hit New York City; it's just a question of when."

The report, which focused on the New York metro areas' vulnerability to storm surge, was even the focus of a special episode on The Weather Channel.

The panels that announced their findings Thursday recommended creating an emergency-management training program to be housed at either the State University of New York or the City University of New York. They also said the state should build a database of "vulnerable" people, such as those in health care facilities, to better direct emergency response, and establish an "emergency stockpile" of essential supplies and equipment such as generators and light towers.

Another suggestion was to establish a "civilian emergency response corps" of electricians, pipe fitters and debris-removal experts who could expedite recovery efforts.



Key recommendations by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo's panels on storm readiness and storm response:

Create centralized emergency-training certification programs housed at SUNY or CUNY.

Require gas stations in "strategic areas" to have on-site backup generators.

Create state gasoline reserve.

Update building codes.

Increase state authority to coordinate emergency-management responses.

Use texting and social media to send storm-related information to residents in specific

geographic areas.

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