In March 2004, Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg appointed Joseph F. Bruno commissioner of the New York City Office of Emergency Management (OEM). He is the fourth head of the agency since it was established in 1996.
Among his first major initiatives, Commissioner Bruno successfully oversaw New York City’s adoption and implementation of the Citywide Incident Management System (CIMS). CIMS is now the City's standard for responding to and managing emergencies and planned events.
Commissioner Bruno also oversaw the comprehensive revision of the City's Coastal Storm Plan to ensure the City is prepared for a worst-case scenario hurricane and can shelter more than 600,000 residents. OEM also developed the "What if New York City…," a post-disaster housing competition that challenged teams of architects and planners to design temporary housing for dense, urban environments. This marked a critical step in New York City's effort to plan ahead for long-term housing after a catastrophic disaster.
During his tenure, Commissioner Bruno has successfully coordinated the City's responses to a variety of emergency and planned incidents. In 2005, he headed the City's plan to maintain order during the transit strike — three days that left New Yorkers with no subway service and minimal bus transportation. After the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, he oversaw the development and operation of a Family Assistance Center to assist victims who migrated to New York City. Commissioner Bruno also managed the City's responses to the Queens blackout in 2006, the steam pipe explosion in midtown Manhattan and the tornado in 2007, two major crane collapses in 2008, the outbreak of the H1N1 virus in 2009, and two tornados and a microburst in 2010.
At the end of 2010 and into 2011, the commissioner coordinated responses to winter storms that led to a number of new winter storm initiatives, like the creation of a tow-truck task force and live video monitoring of road conditions.
In August 2011, Commissioner Bruno coordinated the City's response to Hurricane Irene, the worst coastal storm to hit the City in more than a decade. The City took unprecedented steps to prepare for the storm, including a mandatory evacuation of more than 370,000 residents in low-lying areas and the entire Rockaway peninsula, a complete shutdown of public transportation, the evacuation of 7,000 patients from hospitals and nursing homes, and opening more than 80 evacuation centers and emergency shelters. The City's careful planning and coordinated response to Irene helped minimize the storm’s damage.
In fall 2012, Commissioner Bruno coordinated the City's response to Hurricane Sandy, the most devastating coastal storm in New York City history. Key operations included life safety, dewatering, power restoration, debris removal, and support to residents. Some of these operations continue in 2013.
Highlighting the importance of preparedness, more than 10 million emergency preparedness guides have been distributed through the Ready New York campaign under Commissioner Bruno's leadership. And with the commissioner’s support, NYC’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program has grown to over 56 teams and 1,500 volunteers trained in basic emergency response, preparedness, and first aid. Commissioner Bruno also added OEM’s technological expertise to the creation of Notify NYC, an emergency notification system for New York City residents that uses text messaging, e-mail and phone to warn subscribers about emergencies.
Commissioner Bruno currently serves as chair of the board of directors for the Big City Emergency Managers, Inc., a nonprofit made up of emergency managers from 15 metropolitan jurisdictions representing almost 30% of the U.S. population.
Commissioner Bruno has a long and distinguished record of public service in New York City. In 1971, he joined the City Law Department as a trial attorney. In 1987, he became the City's Fire Commissioner. Subsequently, Commissioner Bruno was elected in 1991 and 2001 as a Judge of the Civil Court of the City of New York and in 2002 as a Justice of the Supreme Court of the State of New York. A lifelong New York City resident, Commissioner Bruno holds a B.S. in Economics from City College and a J.D. from St. John's University Law School.