New York City's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) responds to crises of all kinds. New Yorkers see this firsthand whenever we confront a major storm, a power outage, or a water main break. This biennial report highlights OEM's comprehensive efforts to prepare for and respond to these and other emergencies.
Throughout the year, OEM coordinates our local government's work to inform the public how we can take practical steps to increase our preparedness, including registering for Notify NYC, the City's free, real-time emergency alert system. In 2012, when Hurricane Sandy tested us as no storm ever has before, OEM had a plan in place. Well before Sandy reached our area, we activated the OEM Situation Room and our Coastal Storm Plan. From that point forward, OEM staff worked around the clock to help New Yorkers protect themselves and their property — and to assist those who were devastated by the storm.
OEM will continue to play a vital role in the City's efforts to rebuild our communities and prepare for future extreme weather, both along our coastline and in all our neighborhoods. Together, we will continue to help protect our City — and one another — whenever a crisis strikes.
Michael R. Bloomberg
Dear New Yorkers,
I am happy to present the 2012/2013 NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Biennial Report, which showcases the diligent work of the agency to further its multifaceted mission of planning for and responding to natural and man-made emergencies, information sharing, and educating the New Yorkers on the importance of personal preparedness.
The past two years have been extremely busy — New York City is not immune to emergencies and disasters — large and small. To be sure, the most challenging emergency to date, Hurricane Sandy, was unlike any that the City had faced in recent history. Tragically, 44 New Yorkers lost their lives in this storm. In the days leading up to and following landfall, the City's Emergency Operations Center (EOC), located at OEM's headquarters in Brooklyn was home to dedicated staff from a host of City, state, and federal agencies, nongovernmental or not-for-profit organizations, private sector, utilities and regional partners; additionally the flow of massive resources to all the impacted areas was directed from the EOC. This was a coordinated response and recovery effort like none I have ever seen before.
Over the past two years, OEM achieved many milestones in the field of emergency management, and improvements were made spanning multiple divisions within our agency. In 2013, we marked the 10th anniversary of the Ready New York campaign, Citizen Corps Council and NYC's Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT). OEM published an updated Ready New York Hurricane guide detailing expanded coastal storm evacuation zones, and a new My Emergency Plan: Pets guide provided residents with a workbook for preparing their pets for emergencies. OEM launched a number of new social media accounts in 2012 and 2013, including LinkedIn, Instagram, and Twitter, furthering our outreach to the residents of NYC. In addition, both the @NotifyNYC and @nycoem Twitter handles were among 100 agencies worldwide invited to participate in the Twitter Alerts program, designed to help users get important and accurate information rapidly during emergencies.
The expansion of Watch Command's facilities coupled with an increase in staff resulted in a surge in the number of incidents OEM was able to respond to in the last two years. Citywide Incident Coordinators responded to more than 500 additional incidents compared to the 2010-2011 period, while Watch Command monitored an additional 2,500 incidents. OEM held multiple command post exercises to improve the level of cooperation and coordination between NYPD and FDNY leadership in preparation for unified incident command, and in November of 2013 we hosted a full-scale exercise in Coney Island simulating the response to a radiological dispersal device.
Our Logistics division received a major technological upgrade in advance of Sandy that helped staff and volunteers at the OEM warehouse in Brooklyn to respond to, track, and manage an unprecedented volume of resource requests for a period of more than four months in the aftermath of the storm.
I am continually proud of the determination and accomplishments of OEM and its staff. 2012 and 2013 have been challenging, but arising from the crises faced is the opportunity to improve and develop plans and programs that ensure even greater resiliency for the City of New York as we move forward into 2014. I hope you enjoy the report and commit to preparing yourself and your loved ones for emergencies.
Joseph F. Bruno
Following Hurricane Irene's landfall in late August 2011, OEM coordinated the Hurricane Irene After-Action Report (AAR). The report evaluated the City's response to Irene, documented what the City did well, and identified areas for improvement. OEM coordinated a range of improvements with partner agencies based on the report's 68 recommendations, including a protocol for planning and sharing information related to bridges and tunnel closures throughout the region, enhanced procedures for coordinating transportation assets for healthcare facilities under an evacuation, the development of a healthcare facility shelter in place strategy, strengthened training for shelter staff and volunteers, and a social media emergency protocol.
Healthcare Facility Evacuation Center Manual
After Irene, OEM, DOHMH, NYS DOH, FDNY, HHC, GNYHA, and other partner agencies revised the Healthcare Evacuation Center (HEC) Manual to include enhanced procedures for the coordination of transportation assets (ambulances, Paratransit vehicles, buses, and sedans) during healthcare facility evacuations, a Shelter in place strategy for determining if facilities can sustain patients without evacuating, and improved staffing plans.
Bridge & Tunnel Closure Protocol
Developed in the wake of Hurricane Irene, the regional Bridge & Tunnel Closure Protocol was developed to coordinate the closures of New York City area bridges and tunnels during impending severe weather. Developed and led by OEM and TRANSCOM, a regional transportation agency coalition, the protocol proved to be crucial in coordinating the closure of the New York City metropolitan area's bridges and tunnels during Hurricane Sandy. In the days before landfall, agencies used the protocol to guide decisions regarding closure timing and tactics, and to coordinate emergency alerts and messaging on highway signage around the region.
Area Evacuation Plan
In February 2013, OEM updated the New York City Area Evacuation Plan (AEP). The AEP coordinates evacuations resulting from no-notice events, including natural hazards, infrastructure incidents, and man-made events. The plan clarifies roles and responsibilities of other City and state agencies in support of operations carried out by the Police Department. The AEP is designed to be scalable, from evacuations of a single neighborhood to larger-scale operations, depending on the size of the incident. The revised plan includes operational strategies to support improved coordination of roadways, public transportation, special needs, and public information, while allowing flexibility to respond to various hazards and incident scales.
Transit Strike Contingency Plan
Updated in 2012, the Transit Strike Contingency Plan includes strategies to manage traffic that may be used in any disruption of mass transit. Examples of these strategies include high occupancy vehicle (HOV) restrictions, lane reversals, park and ride options, amended taxi and limousine regulations, and the suspension of roadway construction.
Mission Request Protocol
Developed in 2012, the Mission Request Protocol (MRP) offers strategic and operational guidance for the submission and receipt of requests for resources from New York State or neighboring counties. The MRP explains the resource request process and presents a broad catalog of pre-scripted mission requests for specific capabilities. The pre-scripted requests are drafted in advance of an emergency to save time during an actual event.
Logistics Center Manual, Forms, Toolkit, & Truck Routing Protocol
The Logistics Center (LC) Manual and LC Forms & Toolkit contain procedures and tools to help Logistics Center staff — comprising representatives from various City agencies — process and fulfill citywide resource requests to support response and recovery activities. Following lessons learned from Sandy, the LC Manual was expanded to include the LC Emergency Truck Routing Protocol, which guides LC staff through critical considerations and procedures for safely routing freight carriers within the City.
Logistics Staging Area Plan
A Logistics Staging Area (LSA) is a way-station to receive, assess, stage, track, and distribute shipments of critical resources after an emergency event. A licensing agreement is in place with Citi Field for use of parking areas as the Citywide LSA, and alternate sites have been identified to ensure the City has this vital logistical capability when needed. The LSA plan includes the LSA Manual and LSA Site Information Packages, which were developed in 2012, along with the LSA Field Operations Guide and a suite of online and video training materials for LSA staffing and management, were finalized in August 2013.
Logistics Shelter Support Program
The Logistics Shelter Support Program (LSSP) is a comprehensive suite of resources essential to the staffing and operation of the New York City shelter system. The LSSP includes the Emergency Supply Stockpile, a variety of food service programs and contracts that provide hot meals to shelter residents, and support items for Special Medical Needs Shelters, among other supplies.
Commodity Distribution Point Plan
A Commodity Distribution Point (CDP) is a temporary site where life-sustaining commodities, including emergency meals and water, are distributed each day during an emergency. Other commodities, such as cleanup kits and tarps, can also be distributed using the CDP model. Sites in each of the city's 59 community districts have been surveyed in cooperation with the Department of Parks & Recreation and the Police Department to create detailed plans for staffing, security, oversight, layout, and operation of each CDP site. A suite of online and video training materials for CDP operations and management, as well as the CDP Field Operations Guide, was finalized in August 2013. A training plan for CDP staff was also implemented in August 2013 for more than 150 CERT, Medical Reserve Corps, and NYC Service volunteers.
The Incident Explosive Device Response Playbook is a guide to coordinating the response to an IED attack beyond the immediate (and essential) life safety, site management, and investigative tasks. The playbook outlines the various supporting operations that would need to be activated simultaneously in the minutes and hours following an IED attack, including, but not limited to, support to hospitals seeing a surge in patients, Family Assistance Centers and Disaster Assistance Service Centers to provide services to those affected by the disaster, damage assessments of infrastructure in affected areas, and the planning for the eventual re-opening of the incident site to the public.
Post Hurricane-Sandy Playbooks
Following Hurricane Sandy, new playbooks have been developed to better serve New Yorkers during emergencies. These playbooks — including improvements on managing debris, volunteers and donations, and food and water operations — are based on recommendations that outline how the City's response capacity and performance can be strengthened in the future.
OEM's Training & Exercises Division has enhanced the way agency personnel understand and respond to emergencies through several key initiatives:
Introduced in September 2012, OEM Academy trains OEM personnel and agency partners in emergency management skills, protocols, and procedures through training and exercises, Emergency Operations Center activities, and an after-action/improvement plan process.
Launched in 2012, the Emergency Management Certificate Program introduces City employees, and some partners, to emergency management fundamentals and helps them gain a better understanding of how NYC operates and responds to emergencies. Through a series of courses, participants gain a solid foundation in emergency management principles and how they are applied in New York City. Participants conclude the program with a tabletop exercise.
Introduced in 2008, OEM's Advanced Disaster Management Simulator is a virtual reality system that walks users through emergencies and their surrounding environments. The program has been expanded to allow first responders and City agency personnel to practice managing large-scale emergencies in real-world settings without incurring costs or imposing disruptions on the public.
On June 27, 2012, Deputy Mayor for Operations Caswell Holloway and OEM hosted an executive-level tabletop exercise, Eyeing the Storm, to help prepare agency heads for the 2012 hurricane season and review recommendations made in the Hurricane Irene After-Action Report. The exercise challenged participants to make decisions regarding storm preparation, evacuation, school closures, sheltering, and post-storm operations, including damage assessment. Eyeing the Storm attendees included City and partner agencies, the National Weather Service, and Menlo, the third-party logistics provider responsible for the deployment of the Emergency Supply Stockpile to shelters.
On April 20, 2013, members of New York Task Force 1, New York City's Urban Search and Rescue team, conducted a canine training and certification exercise on Staten Island. Canine search teams practiced search and rescue techniques on the city's two manmade rubble piles. Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) members were placed into confined-space "hides" for rescue dogs to find. The National Urban Search and Rescue Response System has 28 advanced search and rescue task forces strategically located throughout the United States. Coordinated and overseen by FEMA, NY-TF 1 is managed by OEM, and includes approximately 210 specially trained and certified members from the New York City Police and Fire Departments.
OEM conducted a Command Post Exercise series in coordination with the NYC Police and Fire Departments to reinforce the need for unified incident command and unified operations sections in compliance with the Citywide Incident Management System. Exercises were held in every borough between July 2011 and June 2012 with each Fire division and Police patrol borough to improve communications and interagency decision-making. OEM also worked with the Fire Department and the U.S. Marine Corps during several interagency disaster drills to hone disaster response skills, increase interoperability, and maintain crucial relationships among New York City response organizations.
In November 2013, OEM hosted a multiagency drill in the vicinity of MCU Park on Coney Island. The exercise was a culmination of a series of workshops and tabletop exercises simulating the coordinated response by multiple City agencies to a radiological dispersal device (RDD) incident. The NYC Fire Department, Police Department, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene, and Department of Environmental Protection were among the participating agencies, while CERT volunteers contributed to the drill by playing victims.
As a follow-up to the What If New York City... Design Competition for Post-Disaster Provisional Housing, OEM and the NYC Department of Design and Construction (DDC) are developing a way to supply post-disaster housing that meets the needs of urban areas through the Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Program. Because of the City's high population density, lack of open space, and a mission to resettle as many residents as possible in their former neighborhoods, the Urban Post-Disaster Housing Prototype Program will outline a new plan for interim housing that will provide more suitable living spaces for New Yorkers displaced by disaster than conventional interim housing solutions used in other parts of the country. OEM and DDC, with support from the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE), FEMA, and the Regional Catastrophic Preparedness Grant Program, are building and testing a quickly deployable, three-story, multifamily prototype on a site next to OEM's headquarters. The prototype will be occupied through 2014 and then removed. It will set a national precedent for supplying urban interim housing.
Hazard mitigation planning is the first of the four phases of emergency management, followed by preparedness, response, and recovery. Since a number of hazards pose a threat to New York City, hazard mitigation is essential to breaking the typical disaster cycle. In 2009, OEM released the Hazard Mitigation Plan, a FEMA-approved guideline for protecting New York City from the effects of natural hazards. In 2012, work began on the City's plan update, which will be released in 2014. As part of this process, OEM, in partnership with the NYC Department of City Planning, convened 40 City agencies to assess the city's risk from both natural and non-natural hazards and address how these threats may affect the future environment. The plan was published for public review in December 2013.
National Preparedness Month — a month-long, nationwide campaign sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to promote emergency preparedness and encourage volunteerism — celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2013. Commissioner Bruno joined FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate to kick off National Preparedness Month 2013 at Staten Island Children's Museum. More than 1,000 children attended the event, and more than 175 volunteers distributed literature and talked to New Yorkers about emergency preparedness at sites throughout all five boroughs.
In recognition of the efforts of volunteers in New York City before, during, and after Hurricane Sandy, the NYC Citizen Corps Council held its Seventh Annual Disaster Volunteer Conference, It Takes A City, in May 2013. In 2012, the Sixth Annual Disaster Volunteer Conference focused on volunteers creating change. In November 2013, the Citizen Corps Council released an English-as-a-Second-Language (ESL) emergency preparedness curriculum in partnership with the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs (MOIA). Through this collaboration, OEM and MOIA introduced "The Storm," the 10th episode of the "We Are New York" TV series for English language-learners, which focuses on preparing for an emergency. The NYC Citizen Corps Council continues to organize National Preparedness Month activities throughout the city by bringing together disaster relief and other volunteer organizations to distribute information at fairs, host demonstrations, and lead preparedness presentations. In January 2012, OEM staffer Herman Schaffer, who oversees the NYC Citizen Corps program, was honored as a White House Champion of Change for his commitment and contributions to disaster preparedness.
Ten years after its inception, the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) program continues to grow. CERT volunteers numbered more than 1,500 in 2013, and interest in CERT training surged following Hurricane Sandy. To meet the demand, CERT held the first-ever summer cycle in 2013. Additionally, the annual John D. Solomon Emergency Preparedness Award was presented to CERT Team Chiefs Kim Teixeira and Ramona Ponce in 2012 and 2013, respectively. In 2013, OEM introduced the CERT Excellence in Deployment and Emergency Response Award to recognize a team that has shown a strong history of deploying for planned and unplanned events and outstanding emergency response. Staten Island Port Richmond CERT was honored as the award's first recipient.
Since its inception in 2011, Partners in Preparedness — a program that helps organizations better prepare their employees, services, and facilities for disasters — has engaged more than 220 NYC-based businesses, nonprofit organizations and government agencies, representing more than 500,000 employees. More than 120 have completed all the steps needed to become an official OEM Partner in Preparedness. This innovative program was awarded the 2012 FEMA Promising Partnership award and recognized by the CDC Foundation for embodying FEMA's Whole Community approach to emergency management, and received two grants to further its reach. As part of this partnership, the NYC Partners in Preparedness toolkit was designed to help other jurisdictions replicate the program. Additionally, OEM staffer Ira Tannenbaum was recognized in 2013 as a White House Champion of Change for his role in coordinating the Partners in Preparedness program and emergency planning, preparedness, and response activities between the City and private sector. The 2013 Partners in Preparedness Award was presented to the NYC Department of Youth & Community Development, The Salvation Army, and the New York Stock Exchange (pictured).
In 2012, the John D. Solomon Fellowship for Public Service was established by the family and friends of the late John D. Solomon, who was an accomplished journalist on homeland security and other public policy issues, and who was devoted to public service. Sponsored by OEM, it is the first student fellowship in New York City government devoted specifically to emergency management. The inaugural class included fellows and mentors from City agencies including OEM, the Department of the Aging, the Department of Health & Mental Hygiene, NYC Digital, and NYC Service. In 2013, the fellowship added a second position at OEM as well as a fellow at the NYC Department of Youth and Community Development.
OEM continues to chair the Big City Emergency Managers' group, which includes emergency managers from the county's 15 largest cities, as well as representatives from FEMA. Sponsored by Target, Sprint, and ESRI, this group meets semi-annually to discuss issues affecting emergency management. Recent discussions have focused on after-action reviews of Hurricane Sandy, The Washington, D.C., Navy Yard shooting, and the July 2013 Asiana Airlines Flight 214 crash landing in San Francisco. Emergency managers and FEMA representatives also discuss policy issues around grant funding, post-disaster public assistance funding, and the professionalization of the emergency management discipline.
Since Hurricane Irene, OEM has made strides in its use of social media. The agency's social media presence has dramatically expanded with the debut of the @nycoem Twitter account in August 2012, followed by LinkedIn and Instagram in 2013. At the end of 2013, OEM had more than 7,900 Twitter followers and over 23,600 Facebook likes.
In 2013, OEM updated the NYC Readiness Challenge, an interactive tool that highlights what could happen in the event of an emergency in New York City and outlines steps users can take to prepare for a disaster. The Challenge takes users through six floors of a NYC apartment building, where they meet New Yorkers with a specific problem and are asked to help them get to safety. While assisting the characters, users learn about staying informed during an emergency, contacting loved ones who may be concerned, gathering emergency supplies ahead of a disaster, preparing pets for emergencies, and helping family members and friends with special needs.
Since 2011, Ready New York's suite of guides has been refreshed to include a variety of new resources. Some of the most noteworthy changes included the 2013 Ready New York: Hurricanes and New York City guide, which was updated to reflect the new hurricane evacuation zones; the pets guide, now called the Ready New York: My Pet's Emergency Plan, which was redesigned to be a companion guide to the Ready New York: My Emergency Plan and debuted during 2013 National Preparedness Month; and the Ready New York tween guides, which encourage young New Yorkers to choose their own path to preparedness by presenting them with four different emergency scenarios.
Each year, the Ready New York program honors a New York City school and senior center for their commitment to preparedness. In 2012, PS 23 in the Bronx earned the Ready School of the Year Award, while the Fort Greene Grant Square Senior Center in Brooklyn earned the inaugural Senior Center of the Year Award. In 2013, PS 151 in Brooklyn and Catholic Charities Bayside Senior Center in Queens, were honored as the Ready School of the Year Award and Senior Center of the Year Award, respectively.
In an effort to reach more New Yorkers, OEM continued its partnership with the Ad Council with new print and radio public service advertisements (PSAs). The new advertisements, created by Deutsch in 2013 and produced in partnership with FEMA, emphasize the importance of getting children involved in the preparedness process. To date, OEM's preparedness ad campaign has received over $23.6 million in donated media.
After Hurricanes Irene and Sandy, OEM strongly focused its outreach efforts on residents in hurricane evacuation zones. In addition to Ready New York presentations, Zone A (Zones 1-4 in 2013) communities received hurricane guide through library branches, elementary schools, community boards, Police Precinct Community Councils, GrowNYC green markets, swimming pools, and Borough Presidents' meetings. In Sandy's wake, OEM gave more than 400 presentations in hurricane evacuation zones and mailed 1.4 million hurricane guides to New York City residents and businesses in all the City's coastal storm evacuation zones.
OEM's GIS unit, which played a key part in developing the new hurricane evacuation zones, was instrumental in launching the revamped Hurricane Evacuation Zone Finder in 2013. The mobile device-friendly Finder helps residents determine whether they live in a hurricane evacuation zone using GPS location or an inputted address. Based the user's location, the Finder determines the nearest hurricane evacuation center and provides directions to that center. The Finder also indicates whether an evacuation order is in effect and which zones should evacuate.
In a city as large and complex as New York City, emergencies can happen every day. Between January 2011 and October 2013, OEM's Citywide Interagency Coordinators (CICs) responded to 6,737 emergencies while Watch Command monitored more than 1,745 incidents in the five boroughs.
Crane Hitting Brooklyn Bridge (March 2012)
On March 13, 2012, OEM responded to the East River, where a crane barge had struck the bottom of the Brooklyn Bridge. The collision affected both the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the East River channels that is regularly transited by marine vessels. OEM coordinated operations between the Fire, Police and Transportation Departments, the United States Coast Guard (USCG), and several private contractors, and alerted the public about the bridge shutdown.
Bronx Fire Escapes (Spring 2012)
On June 2, 2012, the Fire Department requested OEM assistance at 2400 Webb Ave. in the Bronx, where all fire escapes had been removed. Due to this and other life safety violations, the Fire and Buildings Departments ordered the 75-unit building's 200 residents to vacate. OEM dispatched the American Red Cross, MTA buses, and Police resources to the scene. OEM Citywide Interagency Coordinators (CICs) worked with the building owner and other City agencies on the scene to keep residents informed of the vacate order and ensure that all their needs were met.
SI Fresh Kills Brush Fire (April 2012)
Dry conditions, low humidity, and gusty winds contributed to the development of a five-alarm brush fire on the Fresh Kills Landfill property in Staten Island on April 9, 2012. Watch Command provided regular updates on the weather, supported interagency communications, and issued Notify NYC messages in order to keep the general public informed. CICs facilitated interagency meetings and supported requests for heavy equipment from other City agencies needed to support fire suppression operations.
Brooklyn Residential Fire (July 2012)
On July 26, 2012, a seven-alarm fire at 665 New York Ave. in Brooklyn brought hundreds of firefighters and scores of other emergency personnel to the 117 residential-unit building. Due to extensive damage, the entire building was vacated and hundreds of residents were displaced and in need of relocation assistance. OEM facilitated interagency meetings, worked with the Department of Education to open a reception center, organized tenant meetings in cooperation with building management, and ensured that residents were able to retrieve their belongings from their apartments when it was safe to do so. OEM's Operations division supported the job for almost one month until all resident needs were met.
Breezy Point/Canarsie Tornadoes/Water Spout (September 2012)
On September 8, 2012, the National Weather Service (NWS) determined that a tornado/water spout developed off the coast of Breezy Point, Queens, and then redeveloped and touched down in the Canarsie section of Brooklyn. OEM distributed NWS-issued Tornado Warnings through Notify NYC directing people to take shelter immediately and deployed Citywide Interagency Coordinators (CICs) to the scene. CICs responded to both Breezy Point and Canarsie to assess damage, conduct interagency meetings, and assist members of the public who were affected by the storm.
Seastreak Ferry Accident (January 2013)
On January 9, 2013, more than 50 people were injured, some seriously, when the Seastreak Ferry made a hard landing into Pier 11 in Manhattan. OEM Citywide Interagency Coordinators (CICs) were immediately dispatched to the scene to assist the City with information gathering and coordination. OEM ensured that all other City, state, and federal agencies sent appropriate resources and supported other interagency requests throughout the incident.
Train Derailments (Pennsylvania Station, Harlem 1 Train, Garbage Train)
During the summer of 2013, OEM responded to three separate train derailments in different parts of the City: an elevated subway had a minor derailment and needed to be evacuated in Harlem on May 29, 2013; a commuter railroad derailed in Penn Station resulting in hundreds of people being evacuated and causing major service disruptions on June 17, 2013; and a freight train hauling refuse derailed near the Bronx-Manhattan border causing major commuter disruptions and a major clean-up on July 18, 2013. In each case, OEM informed the public of service disruptions and alternate transportation options, kept partner agencies informed by distributing situation summaries, and deployed CICs to the scene. OEM CICs worked with responding agencies to care for the passengers, troubleshoot and facilitate interagency issues, and ensure that service was restored in a timely fashion.
Helicopter Emergency Landing on Upper West Side (June 2013)
OEM responded to the 79th Street Boat Basin in the early afternoon of June 30, 2013. A small helicopter on a sightseeing tour made an emergency landing into the water with five passengers on board. Civilians on jet skis in the area of the landing rescued the passengers from the water and the Fire and Police Departments responded to secure the scene and evaluate the passengers. OEM coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration, National Transportation Safety Board, the United States Army Corps of Engineers, and other City agencies to remove the aircraft from the water and re-open the boat basin.
Astro Tower at Coney Island's Luna Park (July 2013)
On July 2, 2013, OEM, along with several other City agencies, was requested at Coney Island's Luna Park due to a report that the Astro Tower — a 280-foot tall amusement attraction — was swaying and potentially in danger of collapse. Once reported, OEM Watch Command requested representatives from several City agencies including the Buildings, Fire, and Police Departments and the Economic Development Corporation to respond to the scene. OEM Coordinators, working closely with park owners and other City agencies, facilitated an orderly evacuation and closure of the park, delivered light towers to support nighttime operations, deployed the Citywide Incident Management Center to serve as a command post, and awaited findings from engineers. While engineers conducted their assessment, Watch Command kept the public informed of both park and road closures through Notify NYC. A decision was made on July 3 to remove the tower completely in the interest of public safety. OEM coordinated the delivery of additional light towers, escorts for two heavy-duty cranes, representatives from utility and telecommunications companies to perform mark outs, and press conferences. Just over 24 hours later, the iconic tower stood no more, and the park was re-opened in time for Luna Park's busiest day of the season, July 4th.
LaGuardia Southwest 345 Accident (July 2013)
On July 22, 2013, Southwest Airlines flight 345's nose gear collapsed upon landing and the aircraft skidded down the runway at LaGuardia Airport. As a result, nearly 150 passengers and crew needed to evacuate the aircraft. Air traffic in and out of LaGuardia was suspended. OEM dispatched interagency coordinators to the airport, established communications with the Federal Aviation Administration, and pushed out up-to-the-minute updates to City agencies and executives so response plans could be mobilized. OEM coordinators worked hand-in-hand with Port Authority personnel to ensure they had the resources necessary to respond to the incident.
In an effort to maintain its robust operation, OEM's Watch Command expanded in size in 2013. The expansion included extra work stations for staffers and managers to continue monitoring incidents throughout the city 24/7. OEM's back-up facility also received a facelift in 2013.
Launched in 2013, the Major Emergency Transportation Unit (METU) program is intended to establish an enhanced transportation capability, as well as a scene support role, by providing a mobile, climate-controlled environment for triage and/or first responder rehabilitation at major emergencies and special events. The METU program is a collaborative effort of the New York Urban Area Security Initiative jurisdictions. The NY Urban Area principals include New York City, Yonkers, the Port Authority of NY and NJ, and Nassau, Suffolk, and Westchester counties.
In June 2013, OEM announced that Hurricane Evacuation Zones 1 through 6 would replace Zones A, B, and C. The new zones include an additional 600,000 New Yorkers not included within the boundaries of the former zones. The new zone system — first announced in the City's Hurricane Sandy After-Action Report — was developed using the latest Sea, Lake, and Overland Surges from Hurricanes (SLOSH) storm surge inundation maps generated by the National Weather Service and processed by United States Army Corps of Engineers. The zones are based on coastal flood risk resulting from storm surge — the "dome" of ocean water propelled by the winds and low barometric pressure of a hurricane; the geography of the city's low-lying neighborhoods; and the accessibility of these neighborhoods by bridge and roads.
COOP, which works to ensure all City agencies can continue to provide essential public services in the event of an emergency, expanded in 2013 to include 44 agencies. In 2012, COOP proved successful during Hurricane Sandy as plans were activated and 18% of the agencies had to be relocated to alternate sites due to lack of heat/water and electricity. Activation of COOP plans during Sandy led the OEM COOP team to introduce the Small Scale Relocation Consortium, which seeks to pool together smaller workspaces across city facilities (i.e. conference rooms, underused areas, etc.) that could be used to temporarily house another agency's displaced operations. In 2013, Continuity of Operations (COOP) was incorporated as an Emergency Support Function (ESF) in accordance with the Incident Command System and the Citywide Incident Management System.
In 2013, OEM was invited to join the Twitter Alerts program, which is designed to help Twitter users get important and accurate information during emergencies, natural disasters or moments when other communications services aren't accessible. Both @NotifyNYC and @nycoem are part of the pilot program, which included roughly 100 agencies worldwide.
Notify NYC's redesigned website also premiered in 2013. Focusing on a user-centric experience, the website allows residents to subscribe to Notify NYC, seamlessly change their subscriber notification settings, and refer others to opt in to the program
Hurricane Sandy was unlike any storm in the City's history. Sandy made landfall on October 29, 2012, and shaped much of what OEM did before, during, and after the storm. The City's response to the storm is detailed in the Hurricane Sandy After-Action Report, which is a comprehensive review of the City's preparedness measures and recovery operations from the initial forecasts to continued actions months later. The report also contains recommendations to strengthen the City's capacity to respond quickly and effectively to future storms and other emergencies.
The City's Coastal Storm Plan — which was improved following Hurricane Irene in August 2011 — in many ways enabled a more effective response for Sandy. Along with this activation, the City activated its Flash Flood Emergency Plan, mobilized the Emergency Supply Stockpile, and took the steps necessary to open 65 evacuation centers with corresponding shelters, along with eight Special Medical Needs shelters.
The Emergency Supply Stockpile (ESS) consists of over 5,700 pallets of medical supplies, personal care items, cots, blankets, food, water, and baby and pet supplies. Designed for a 48-hour deployment, ahead of Sandy, it was fully deployed in just 29 hours. The ESS serves as an on-call resource that can be activated quickly in the event of a coastal storm.
On October 26, 2012, OEM activated the Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was to become the nerve center for all decision-making and the management of the City's response to the storm. The EOC was staffed 24/7 for more than a month, and housed OEM personnel and a multitude of agency liaisons for 107 days.
Ahead of Sandy's landfall, OEM activated the Advanced Warning System (AWS), which reaches more than 623,000 members of the senior and special needs communities through a network of over 1,500 governmental and nongovernmental organizations. OEM sent 16 Sandy-related AWS messages before, during, and after the storm.
OEM also relayed information to the public through Notify NYC, which provides real-time information about emergency events and City services. OEM sent Notify NYC alerts via landline, mobile, text, email and Twitter to over 165,000 residents registered for the program. From October 27 to November 27, these registrants received a total of 67 messages related to Hurricane Sandy. Notify NYC's reach expanded by almost 15 percent during Sandy, gaining more than 9,600 new subscribers to Notify NYC and another 12,000 through Twitter.
In addition to traditional media outreach and social media before, during, and after Sandy, OEM also sent the mandatory evacuation alert through the Wireless Emergency Alerts system (WEA), which sent an emergency text message to all equipped cell phones in New York City. This was the first time in the United States that a local or state municipality activated this alert system to disseminate an emergency message. OEM sent out two additional WEA messages on October 29: one that alerted the public to call 911 only to address a life-threatening emergency, and one that alerted the public not to use the roads.
On Sunday, October 28, Mayor Bloomberg announced a mandatory evacuation for what was defined in the Coastal Storm Plan as Zone A, as well as the Rockaways, Hamilton Beach, and City Island. As part of this decision, the City opened 65 evacuation centers with corresponding shelters. New York City's shelter system housed approximately 6,800 evacuees in 73 shelters, including eight special medical needs shelters.
As part of the agency's preparations for Sandy, the Healthcare Facility Evacuation Center (HEC) opened at OEM headquarters to prepare for the potential evacuation of healthcare facilities. The decision of whether to evacuate is not taken lightly, as the public safety risk of sheltering-in-place must be balanced against the potential adverse consequences of moving individuals to a shelter facility.
A licensing agreement for usage of stadium parking areas at Citi Field has been established with the Mets, enabling the staging of equipment, such as light towers, generators, and pumps that can be dispatched for critical operations. This allowed for a joint Logistics Staging Area (LSA) to be set up immediately following Sandy by OEM and New York State OEM, with other areas designated for Con Edison, which provided a crucial role in deploying equipment for response and recovery operations.
Roughly 600 million gallons of water infiltrated the City during Hurricane Sandy. In the immediate response, OEM worked alongside FEMA, the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA) to identify and prioritize dewatering of flooded locations.
Sandy's salt water surge inundation knocked out power to more than 700,000 customers (roughly 2.5 million people) in New York City. In response, OEM coordinated the NYC Generator Task Force deployed approximately 230 generators to hospitals, nursing homes, large multi-family buildings, and NYCHA developments.
One of the biggest challenges the City faced after Sandy was the amount of debris and damage left behind. To address this, OEM stood up the Debris Removal Task Force (DRTF), which coordinated and executed the collection and removal of debris from the City's rights of way to several Temporary Storage Sites. The DRTF was comprised of 25 federal, state, and local agencies, which were charged with the coordination, removal, and final disposal of over 2 million cubic yards of debris of all types caused by Hurricane Sandy.
The Debris Removal Task Force was involved in several operations. They included:
Sandy's storm surge and waves eroded the city's beaches and left streets, walkways and private properties in beachfront areas covered in sand. The Task Force reclaimed more than 187,000 cubic yards of sand from the streets and public property. Contractors sifted and tested the sand before it was returned to nearby beaches. This strategy saved taxpayers over $80 million, and reduced the Task Force's carbon footprint by eliminating the need for trucks to remove the sand.
Sandy displaced most of Rockaway Beach's 5.5‐mile boardwalk, which was made of valuable tropical woods. The Task Force salvaged all undamaged wood — 144,000 square feet of decking and 55,000 square feet of support joists — and will use it to repair other sections of the boardwalk.
Wetland Debris Removal
Debris was pushed into the Oakwood Beach wetland in Staten Island, posing a major health and safety threat to surrounding neighborhoods. In addition to the wetland's importance in the water cycle and for wildlife habitat, this area is also part of the Staten Island Bluebelt, a collection of natural drainage corridors that have been preserved for conveying, storing, and filtering storm water. The Task Force, using environmentally conscious processing, removed over 5,000 cubic yards of debris and hazardous waste from this site.
Reuse of Vegetative Debris
Sandy knocked down or damaged 20,000 trees. The Task Force worked under a strict federal mandate that requires all vegetative debris to be chipped to prevent the spread of the Asian Longhorned beetle. To combat this and the risk of combustion in debris piles, the Task Force chipped nearly 200,000 cubic yards of vegetative debris and 85% of this has been or will be recycled as mulch and ground cover.
The Task Force ensured the following items were recycled from the debris gathered at the temporary storage site: metal, concrete, household hazardous waste, appliances, electronics, heavy woods, small motors and fuel. Prior to demolition of any structures, materials containing asbestos were abated. Remaining debris was shipped to municipal solid waste facilities, where additional recycling took place.
Housing Demolition Coordination
The DRTF coordinated the demolition of 346 Sandy-damaged homes and the removal of debris from approximately 200 private residences, where homes were either destroyed by storm surge or by fire during the storm.
The Debris Removal Task Force created a new model and standard for post-disaster environmental responsibility and sustainability, and was nominated for the international Green Star Award by Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg for its efforts in sand renewal, boardwalk recycling, wetland debris removal, reuse of vegetative debris, and debris recycling. Commissioner Bruno accepted the award in Geneva, Switzerland, in September 2013.
After Sandy hit, first responders initiated aggressive search, rescue, and security operations, and Urban Search and Rescue teams conducted door-to-door searches of 30,000 homes in affected areas. Following this mission's completion, OEM coordinated the Support to Residents in Their Homes operation with the National Guard, Fire Department Incident Management Teams, and the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. This outreach involved going door to door to check on residents' well-being, distributing supplies, including blankets and toiletries, providing information about available resources and Restoration Centers, making client referrals to medical teams, and identifying homes for Rapid Repairs.
While a major food and water distribution operation (based at Floyd Bennett Field) was under way after Sandy, OEM worked with the New York City Housing Authority to identify homebound populations and deliver food, water, and other goods directly to residents in single and multifamily homes, as well as high-density, multifamily dwellings.