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PR- 223-06
June 28, 2006


Comprehensive Update of City's Coastal Storm Plan Incorporates Lessons Learned by New York City First Responders Deployed to Louisiana and Mississippi in the Aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

Although the Probability of a Hurricane Making Landfall in New York City is Unlikely, Intense Storms Could Still Produce Flooding and Damage in Low-Lying Areas

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg and Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Commissioner Joseph F. Bruno today unveiled New York City's updated Coastal Storm Plan (CSP). The revised CSP, last updated in 2004, is the result of more than nine months of intense review and planning by OEM and various City, State, Federal, non-profit and for-profit agencies. The City will use the CSP to respond to any coastal storm that may impact New York City and, while less likely, any major hurricane that would affect the metropolitan area. The revised plan includes nearly triple the amount of hurricane shelters from a year ago (23 to 65). The plan also incorporates lessons learned from the City's first responders who assisted with the response to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita and other 2005 storms. Among the lessons learned was the need to strengthen the City's existing response protocols for evacuating vulnerable populations, ensure adequate sheltering capacity and make specific provisions for limited mobility and special needs populations. The CSP provides for the potential evacuation of up to three million residents and shelter for more than 600,000 people in the worst-case scenario. Preparedness costs for the CSP are estimated at up to $30 million.

"New York City is not a high-risk area for hurricanes, but in the event of a coastal emergency, we have to be fully prepared to respond to the needs of residents, particularly those in low-lying areas, to ensure that we leave no one behind," said Mayor Bloomberg. "Taking the lessons learned by our first responders who assisted in the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, the City's Coastal Storm Plan addresses the needs of key populations including individuals with special needs, hospitals and nursing homes. Through a collaboration of City, State and Federal agencies and partnerships with the private sector and nonprofit organizations, we've created a comprehensive plan to ensure that help quickly gets to where it's needed most."

The Mayor and Commissioner Bruno were joined by Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly, Fire Commissioner Nicholas Scoppetta, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene Commissioner Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, Human Resources Administration Commissioner Verna Eggleston, Department of Citywide Administrative Services Commissioner Martha K. Hirst, Department of Homeless Services Commissioner Robert Hess, Deputy Schools Chancellor Kathleen Grimm, Department of Transportation First Deputy Commissioner Judith Bergtraum and CEO of the American Red Cross of Greater New York Terri Bischoff for the announcement at City Hall.

"While New Yorkers often do not associate our City with hurricanes, the hazard is real, and it only needs to happen once," said Commissioner Bruno. "The City's updated Coastal Storm Plan ensures we will be prepared. If you live, work, or go to school in an evacuation zone, prepare a family emergency plan. Most importantly, if an evacuation order is issued, follow it."

Hurricane season nationally lasts five months, from June 1 through November 30. Due to water temperatures, New York's hurricane season is shorter and is generally considered to start on August 1. If a major hurricane made landfall in or near New York City, flooding and other storm-related damage could be extensive. Each of the five boroughs has coastlines that are vulnerable to storm surge created by a hurricane.

New York City is particularly vulnerable to storm surge due to a geographic characteristic called the "New York Bight," a sharp bend in the Atlantic coastline where New York and New Jersey meet. The bight amplifies the effects of a storm surge and can create severe flooding in coastal areas, particularly when the storm tide coincides with normal high tides. If a Category 1 hurricane made landfall in the City, portions of the Rockaway Peninsula, South Brooklyn, Red Hook Piers, communities bordering the Newtown Creek in Brooklyn and Queens, Lower Manhattan, Staten Island's North and South Shores, and low lying areas of the Bronx would be vulnerable to flooding and damage.

OEM works alongside the National Weather Service to identify tropical depressions and project the probability and timing of a hurricane strike. Through Hurricane Evacuation software (HURREVAC), OEM can project storms 120 hours before landfall. Depending on the severity and path of the storm, evacuation plans would then be implemented. This task would be accomplished through the use of 65 evacuation centers, 509 shelters, and the collective strength of City, State, and Federal government, as well as the private and nonprofit sectors.

Evacuation centers and hurricane shelters would be organized into "Solar Systems," with each evacuation center acting as the central coordination hub for five to 10 hurricane shelters. The Solar System model is scalable and ensures flexibility in the City's hurricane response. City employees will provide the majority of staffing for these evacuation centers and hurricane shelters which in a Category 4 hurricane could require 34,000 staffers for up to nine days. The number of evacuation centers has nearly tripled from a year ago in order to ease evacuation flow as well as increase the number of evacuees the system can handle.

A key lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina was that extra steps must be taken to plan for individuals with limited mobility and other special needs, as well as for hospitals and nursing homes. The City's plan ensures that these vulnerable populations will be prepared for a hurricane. Together with non-profit and government partners, the City will distribute preparedness information to the elderly and disabled, as well as inform them (up to 72 hours before) of an impending storm. Hospital and nursing home evacuations will begin before a general evacuation and public and private medical transportation resources will be pooled to ensure their most efficient use.

To ease evacuation efforts, the City will employ a number of measures meant to ensure quick and efficient evacuation including deployment traffic control personnel and tow trucks along evacuation routes, modification of street signal timing to favor evacuating traffic, an embargo on non-emergency street construction, implementation of snow emergency traffic regulations, suspension of street cleaning rules and a request to the State to waive roadway tolls. In addition, public transportation will be enhanced, increasing subway and bus service into and out of flood zones with a request to the State to waive public transportation fares as well as modification of TLC regulations to maximize passenger-carrying capacity of taxis and for-hire vehicles. Fire Department personnel will also monitor healthcare facilities including nursing homes to determine each facility's ability to evacuate.

The best way for individuals to be prepared for a hurricane is to know ahead of time whether you are in an evacuation zone, what your destination should be, and what route you should use. If you do need to evacuate, the City recommends seeking shelter with friends or family outside the evacuation zone. For those who do not have an alternate shelter, the City has identified evacuation centers throughout the five boroughs. A list of shelters is available at or by calling 311. For coastal storms, like any other hazard, New Yorkers can prepare by assembling an Emergency Supply Kit, putting together a Go Bag and developing a Household Disaster Plan.

The City's updated Hurricane Preparedness Brochure is available in several languages at or by calling 311. The brochure provides a citywide map of coastal evacuation zones and evacuation centers, as well as practical advice on how New Yorkers can prepare. OEM will be mailing a brochure to every one of the roughly 300,000 residences within the most vulnerable areas. In addition, OEM is working with local elected officials and community groups to publicize the plan. During the month of May, OEM performed extensive outreach to community and ethnic media outlets throughout the City to educate the public of the risk that hurricanes present, as well as to inform them of the proper way to prepare.


Stu Loeser/Virginia Lam   (212) 788-2958

Jarrod Bernstein   (Office of Emergency Management)
(718) 422-4888

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