In an effort to improve protocol during emergency evacuations, one local councilmember is introducing two pieces of legislation aimed at providing help to those with disabilities during natural disasters, severe weather, orders to evacuate and other emergency situations.
According to Councilmember Mark Treyger – whose district encompasses several Naturally Occurring Retirement Communities (NORCS), where concentrations of older adults live – just about 5,500 seniors in coastal communities throughout the city waited for up to three days (without electricity) to be evacuated during and after Superstorm Sandy in 2012. Seniors with mobility issues and those in need of life-sustaining equipment in particular faced extra challenges, notes Treyger.
To alleviate excessive wait times and confusion during emergency situations, Treyger introduced one bill that would require NYC Emergency Management to maintain a registry of people with disabilities who may need assistance evacuating and another that would call for NYC Emergency Management to create a website for the purpose of notifying a person’s family and friends of their location and status in the event of an emergency at a City Council stated meeting earlier this month.
“Emergency situations are inherently fraught with more questions than answers. But New Yorkers have been faced with enough challenges to learn from our mistakes,” Treyger said. “There is no reason we cannot be better prepared to ensure that evacuations during time of crisis are carried out in as well-planned and orderly a fashion as possible. We can save lives by making sure that the city is prepared to help our most vulnerable population in the event of an evacuation.”
The first bill – creating a registry of people that might need help – would allow the appropriate city agencies to plan accordingly in advance of an emergency situation, according to Treyger. The second bill would allow displaced or potentially displaced people to register on a voluntary website where they could post their location, status, contact info and a short message, accessible only to those in possession of a user-created password.
“Unfortunately, many New Yorkers are all too familiar with the nerve-racking stress of not knowing whether their loved ones were safe in the hours after the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001,” added Treyger. “Some residents who were forced to evacuate their homes because of Hurricane Sandy were also unable to get in touch with the individuals closest to them either. This would create a safe, secure method of letting your loved ones know where you are and what your status [is].”