Seniors attend East Midtown Plaza forum on emergency preparedness

Seniors in attendance at the event held on Tuesday by the Office of Emergency Management and CERT volunteers (Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

Seniors in attendance at the event held on Tuesday by the Office of Emergency Management and CERT volunteers
(Photos by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the worst of hurricane season yet to come, since activity in the Atlantic picks up the most from August through October, the Office of Emergency Management offered a presentation for the East Midtown Plaza senior committee last Tuesday evening.

John Greenwood, a Human Services Planning Specialist for the OEM, and members of Community Board 6’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) explained the importance of emergency preparedness for seniors, including evacuation protocol in the event of a disaster and the new hurricane zones, at the monthly meeting. Greenwood noted that the hurricane guide changed after Hurricane Sandy and that instead of three lettered zones, there are now six numbered zones.

Committee co-chair Jeanne Poindexter added that the buildings East Midtown Plaza are in three different evacuation zones and that any of the buildings located on First Avenue are highly susceptible to flooding.

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

The new hurricane maps, which were made available at the meeting, are also available online or zones can be found out by calling 311 and Greenwood said that although they’re not the most pleasant place, it’s important for residents to know where the evacuation centers are as well, which are also noted on the maps.

“They’re just a giant room with cots and the food isn’t the greatest, but it’s good to know where they are in case you have to go,” he said.

He added that pets are allowed in all of the evacuation centers and Baruch College is the closest handicap accessible facility that functions as an evacuation center. There are 10 facilities throughout the city that are handicap accessible and meet all the ADA requirements but Greenwood said they haven’t been noted on the map yet. Greenwood noted that one of the reasons for the changes in zones is money.

“The mayor is the only one who can make the call for evacuations but it’s a multimillion dollar decision,” he said. “With the changes in the zones, there are now less people per zone so it won’t encompass as many residents if evacuations have to take place.”

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Jeanne Poindexter, East Midtown Plaza senior committee co-chair

Greenwood also told the seniors at the meeting that it’s important to have an emergency plan and to fill out the “Ready New York” packets that detail important information for residents to have at hand in case of an emergency, like contact phone numbers and any medical conditions. “That’s beneficial for you because if you show up at an evacuation center with this guide, they’ll have all the information already and can give you the best care if you need help,” he said.

Virginia Rosario, a member of the CB6 CERT and a resident of Stuyvesant Town, explained what her responsibilities are as a member of the team and how she is prepared to help other residents if disaster strikes. “We’ve been trained by the OEM and we’re only deployed when the office gives permission,” Rosario said. “We weren’t deployed during Hurricane Sandy because most of CB6 was down but some volunteers can help with things like bringing water to residents.”

PCV, sections of ST in preliminary FEMA flood zone maps

(left) Screenshot of FEMA's 2012 flood hazard zone map (right) FEMA's preliminary flood hazard zone map for 2013

(left) Screenshot of FEMA’s 2012 flood hazard zone map (right) FEMA’s preliminary flood hazard zone map for 2013

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

With the impending arrival of hurricane season, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and Office of Emergency Management have begun releasing preliminary data on flood hazards and evacuation zones.

FEMA released new maps on June 10 based on the best available flood hazard data. The maps are only preliminary but there are already noticeable differences between this year’s and last year’s versions of the flood zones for Stuyvesant Town, Peter Cooper Village and Waterside Plaza. The preliminary map can be found at region2coastal.com.

According to the 2012 map, Waterside Plaza, Avenue C, one block of East 23rd Street, less than a block of East 14th Street and only part of the Avenue C loop had a 0.2 percent chance of flood.

On the preliminary map for this year, Waterside Plaza is in a zone with a one percent or greater chance of flooding and has an additional hazard associated with storm waves. East 14th Street to the 14th Street Loop, Avenue C, the Avenue C Loop, the 20th Street Loop, East 23rd Street to First Avenue and all of Peter Cooper Village to the 20th Street Loop have a one percent annual chance of flood hazard. Part of the 14th Street Loop and the Oval are also now in a 0.2 percent annual chance flood hazard zone.

However, the FEMA maps are intended to assist communities and property owners understand flood risks and are created for flood insurance purposes. They are not meant to designate evacuation zones. A spokesperson for the Office of Emergency Management said that there are sometimes overlaps between OEM’s evacuation maps and FEMA’s flood hazard maps, but they are based on different criteria.

The evacuation zones designated by OEM are based solely on the area’s vulnerability to storm surges and are based on life safety, while the flood hazard maps from FEMA tell homeowners what the risk is for flooding over a period of years, and not just due to storm surge. Creeks and streams are taken into account in FEMA’s maps so a building can be located in a flood zone but outside an evacuation zone.

The evacuation zone map from OEM is still preliminary and hasn’t been officially released yet but some changes have already been made, including a switch from letters to numbers to designate the zones. The new zones, from one to six, include an additional 640,000 residents that were not included in the boundaries of the former zones, according to the Hurricane Sandy After Action report that was released by the mayor’s office in May.

There is a link for an evacuation map on the Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village Tenants Association Facebook page, but this map is only a beta site with preliminary zones and it is not always accessible because the maps are continually being updated, according to OEM. When the official map is released later this month, it will be available at nyc.gov/hurricanezones.

The Midtown East-Stuyvesant Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) was planning to give a presentation at the Community Board 6 full board meeting on Wednesday evening about updates to the evacuation zones based on the link posted to the TA’s Facebook page.

However, CERT chief Pat Sallin said on Wednesday morning that they have cancelled this to prevent spreading misinformation based on the posted link.

Presentations from CERT have also been planned for upcoming 13th Precinct and 17th Precinct Community Council meetings, and Sallin said that those presentations will be dependent on whether or not OEM has officially released maps with updated evacuation zones.

As of T&V’s press time, the next 13th Precinct Community Council meeting, set to take place on Tuesday evening at 6:30 p.m. at 230 East 21st Street, will have an update on NYC Coastal Storm Evacuation Zones.