FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
July 16, 2006
MAYOR MICHAEL R. BLOOMBERG DISCUSSES RESPONSE PLANS TO HURRICANE AND A GLOBAL FLU PANDEMIC DURING WEEKLY RADIO ADDRESS
The following is the text of Mayor Bloomberg’s weekly radio address as prepared for delivery on 1010 WINS News Radio for Sunday, July 16, 2006
"Good Morning. This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg.
"Sweltering heat. Torrential downpours. Even a small tornado in Westchester County. Last week's weather was a wet, hot reminder that New York is subject to acts of nature beyond its control. As true as that is though, City government wouldn't be living up to its most basic responsibility if we didn't do everything possible to prepare and protect New Yorkers from the unpredictable. That's why in recent weeks we have released new response plans for two potential disasters: a major hurricane, and a global flu pandemic.
"The chances of New York getting hit by a serious hurricane are slim, but the city's geography means that we could experience extensive flooding even if we are not struck head on. As a result, our new coastal storm plan improves our storm-tracking systems and takes steps to ensure that, in the event of a hurricane, we will be prepared.
"We have, for instance, nearly tripled the number of evacuation centers and have plans to establish more than 500 shelters. To help evacuate threatened areas, we would implement emergency traffic regulations, ask State authorities to waive roadway tolls, and increase bus and subway service in and out of flood zones. In a worst-case situation, the system could evacuate up to 3 million people and provide emergency shelter for 600,000.
"The new plan also includes a more intensive strategy to evacuate certain hospitals, nursing homes, and homebound New Yorkers. Let me again stress that it's highly unlikely that such a massive evacuation would ever be required - a Category 4 hurricane such as Katrina has never been recorded in the metropolitan area. But make no mistake-in the event of a major storm, our policy is: we're not going to leave anyone behind.
"A global flu pandemic that could sicken millions of New Yorkers is equally unlikely. There is no pandemic anywhere in the world right now - nor an imminent threat of one. But the fact that New York is a major port of entry and an extremely densely populated area means the possibility of pandemic flu - however remote - is one we must take seriously.
"At the heart of our new flu response plan is a program of early detection. We've ramped up communications with doctors across the City who often are the first to recognize unusual diseases. Our Health Department has also built a sophisticated system that monitors thousands of ambulance runs, emergency department visits, pharmacy sales, and other events for the first indication of an outbreak.
"In the event of a pandemic, the Health Department would make recommendations to limit the spread of the disease - such as by closing schools or discouraging the use of mass transit. Vaccines and antiviral drugs - likely to be available only in limited supply - would be distributed first to health and emergency workers, and to those most at risk of dying. We've also developed plans with hospitals and clinics to handle the expected surge in patients while continuing to provide medical services to those suffering from conditions unrelated to the flu.
"You can call 311 or visit nyc.gov to get more information about both our flu and hurricane plans - and get tips about what you and your family can do to prepare. Rest assured, though, that your City government is doing everything possible to make sure that no matter what kind of emergency strikes the city, we will be ready.
"This is Mayor Mike Bloomberg. Thanks for listening."
Stu Loeser (212) 788-2958