On Wednesday, the City Council held a hearing to examine emergency planning and management during and after Hurricane Sandy. The meeting marks the first in a series of extensive hearings that will examine the City’s planning, response and recovery efforts before, during and after Hurricane Sandy.
In her opening statement, Speaker Quinn stated, “From the brave first responders who risked their lives during the storm, to the volunteers who stepped up immediately and continue to give their time to help New Yorkers get back on their feet, we pulled together as a City and came to one another’s aid. As we continue the recovery and rebuilding efforts, we must determine what was done right so we can repeat those successes in the future, and what went wrong so we can take steps to prevent those mistakes from being made again.”
During today’s hearing, Speaker Quinn and Council Members raised a number of significant concerns. Specifically, the Council examined:
Communication and Coordination of OEM, City Agencies and Volunteers
Questions were raised regarding the coordination of volunteer efforts. While there were a significant number of volunteers available to the City post-Sandy, there was reported confusion on a citywide level.
Difficulties Faced By Vulnerable Populations During and After Sandy
A number of advocacy groups and local residents in affected areas have reported a lack of outreach to vulnerable populations, such as senior citizens, the medically frail, mentally disabled and others.
911-311 System Challenges
System operators were overwhelmed by the call volume during the storm. As a result, 911 calls went unanswered or were directed to 311, which was also overwhelmed. As many as 200 to 300 people were on hold at a time on 311 lines, resulting in extraordinarily long wait times and delays in dispatching assistance.
In addition to Bloomberg Administration officials, emergency responders, weather experts, various advocacy groups and 911 and 311 system operators testified at today’s hearing. The Council’s hearings will continue throughout the coming weeks. In total, eleven hearings will be held over the course of seven weeks by more than twenty Council committees.