In both Nassau and Suffolk, public officials are taking a close look at what went wrong in the emergency response to last month's nor'easter. That's crucial, as hurricane season approaches. But getting ready for those summer storms will also require a lot of public education.

In both counties, many calls to 911 on March 13 went unanswered. Today, Sen. Kemp Hannon (R-Garden City) is holding an emergency response session at Adelphi University, focusing on Nassau. Key questions: If the 911 system didn't perform well in the last storm, how can we improve it? What better technology is available? Can callers can get an acknowledgment that their complaint was recorded? What might go wrong next time?

In Suffolk, County Executive Steve Levy is meeting soon with emergency officials about 911 and other storm issues. During the nor'easter, more than 2,300 calls did not get through to a Suffolk 911 operator, despite extra staffing for the storm.

Some of the overflow was attributable to calls bouncing from the Nassau system, but not much. The major problem was too many people calling too many times about nonemergency issues. That's where public education comes in.

Between now and the next big wind, officials must not only fix systems issues, but also do a better job teaching citizens what's really an emergency, and getting them to call other numbers for noncritical problems. A hurricane is a high-pressure test that we simply can't afford to fail. hN

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