|New York State Assembly, Albany, New York 12248|
|Sheldon Silver, Speaker Jeffrey Dinowitz, Chair February 2002|
|Message from the Chair...|
As all New Yorkers painfully know, the events of the past few months have changed our world. On September 11, 2001, disaster struck the nation. In New York City, the World Trade Center towers and other buildings in lower Manhattan were destroyed and lives of thousands of citizens and hundreds of emergency workers were lost, their families and loved ones devastated. The regular operations of business and government, as well as our communication, transportation and health care resources were disrupted. We are working now to complete the recovery of these vital components of our state’s infrastructure. We are taking steps to guard against the continued threat of terrorism including bioterrorism, and to reassess the state’s preparedness and response capabilities.
We all know how well New York City, the state and nation responded to the crisis. We saw how quickly assistance of many kinds was directed to meet the need. We also have many concerns that promised assistance from the federal government will not materialize. Furthermore, there are still questions of improved coordination and delivery resulting from the new reality created by the terrorist attacks.
As Chair of the Legislative Commission on Government Administration, it is my responsibility to fulfill the commission’s mandate to examine how well the management systems of the state perform and how the state can be organized to provide the most effective service. Within this broad mission, I want to look ahead to how we might be better prepared to respond to future terrorist attacks. If you have questions or would like to raise concerns that you feel we should address, please contact me at the Commission.
When disaster strikes, local government is on the front line.
The first response to a disaster in our communities comes from local governments. Local governments and their emergency service providers (police, fire and medical personnel) provide the first line of defense and response.
If an emergency is beyond the capabilities of local resources, a state emergency may be declared. Further, if coping with the disaster requires additional help — as was the case on September 11 — the state may request federal assistance.
In declaring a state disaster emergency, the governor may, by executive order, temporarily suspend specific provisions of any state or local law. New York’s National Guard and other civil defense forces can act to protect and preserve human life or property.
How is New York helping families who have suffered?
In addition to the governor declaring a state disaster emergency 1 , which sets in motion federal assistance, and mobilizing security forces at public institutions and transportation centers, certain laws and programs have been amended to ease the suffering of victims and their families.
Among the actions taken:
Removing the limit on the size of emergency financial awards that can be made from the Crime Victims Assistance Fund and expediting claims.
Individuals can call the Crime Victims Board at 1-800-247-8035 for more information and claim applications.
Establishing the Individual and Family Grant program by the state Labor Department to provide funds for disaster victims as quickly as possible to cover necessary expenses or serious needs for which other governmental assistance is not available or inadequate.
After other sources have been exhausted, New Yorkers may call 1-800-462-9029 to begin the application process.
1 The Executive Law , Article 2-B defines the state’s emergency preparedness role in case of natural or man-made disasters. Section 28 formally outlines the governor’s role in case of a declaration of a "state disaster emergency."
Who is responsible for emergency response at the state level?
The Disaster Preparedness Commission
Following the declaration of a state disaster emergency, the state Disaster Preparedness Commission is charged with directing and coordinating disaster operations among the various federal, state, municipal and private agencies involved. In case of a declared state disaster emergency, the commission may create a temporary organization, for a specific period of time, to provide for these efforts.
The Disaster Preparedness Commission consists of representatives of all the executive agencies that have a role in emergencies ranging from the Division of State Police, to the Department of Health, to the Department of Economic Development. The American Red Cross is also represented on the commission.
Aside from its mission during a disaster, the Disaster Preparedness Commission also meets at least twice a year to prepare state disaster preparedness plans, and is responsible for periodic drills, briefings and exercises to assure that all state personnel with direct disaster relief responsibilities are trained and ready. Each county, city, town and village must annually prepare and submit disaster preparedness plans to the commission. Cities, towns and villages must coordinate their efforts with the counties they are in, except for the counties that are within the City of New York.
The State Emergency Management Office (SEMO)
While the Disaster Preparedness Commission is responsible for planning and coordination, the State Emergency Management Office or SEMO (within the state’s Division of Military and Naval Affairs) acts as the staff of the commission. SEMO is the focal point for all emergency management programs including maintaining the State Emergency Operating Center and administering federal disaster relief funds.
Depending upon the nature of the disaster emergency, different state agencies may play a vital role in responding. For example, the New York State Department of Health laboratories have been involved in testing for the anthrax virus. The Department of Agriculture and Markets is giving greater attention to protecting the state’s food supply. The Office for Technology is involved in safeguarding the state’s information, computer, and network assets.
DISASTER PREPAREDNESS COMMISSION
What is New York State doing to strengthen its disaster preparedness?
As part of comprehensive new anti-terrorism legislation recently enacted (Chapter 300, Laws of 2001), New York state has joined the Emergency Management Assistance Compact, a mutual partnership with other states to provide aid and assistance in times of emergency.
A new Office of Public Security has been created to better coordinate anti-terrorism efforts throughout the state. It is headed by James Kallstrom, formerly director of the FBI’s New York Division.
The Assembly has also introduced far-reaching legislation designed to help comfort World Trade Center attack victims, assist those who bravely responded to the disaster, and rebuild lower Manhattan and our economy.
Highlights of the $200 million multi-year package include financial assistance to families of victims; a memorial commission to honor those who died in the attack; and initiatives promoting business stability and growth in lower Manhattan.
The Legislative Commission on Government Administration will continue examining ways and means of improving the operation of New York state government and its disaster preparedness.
"We are taking steps to guard against the continued threat of terrorism...and to reassess
the state’s preparedness and response capabilities."
For additional information about disaster assistance or security issues, visit the following websites:
These sites can help New Yorkers understand and respond to the threat of terrorism.