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A building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood destroyed by Sandy. Photo<a href="http://www.flickr.com/photos/ccho/"> CCHO</a>, CC <a href="http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/deed.en">some rights reserved</a>
A building in Manhattan's Chelsea neighborhood destroyed by Sandy. Photo CCHO, CC some rights reserved

Storm preparedness on Cuomo's SOS list

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New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo says he intends to include recommendations from a disaster preparedness commission in his State of the State address next week.

Cuomo says he has both short-term and long-term preparedness in mind.

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Reported by

Karen DeWitt
NYS Capitol Correspondent

He's had to cope with the aftermath of two major storms in his two years in office, Irene in 2011, and now Sandy, and Cuomo says the state could be better prepared for climate change that he believes could be the new normal.

"I pray that the situation we went through never happens again, but I'm planning that it will happen again, and I want to be ready, and I want to be more ready than we were in the past."

Cuomo says up until now, the state's disaster training and preparation was for smaller, more localized events, not the major events like Superstorm Sandy that left more than 2 million people without power, 400,000 evacuees and thousands of homes damaged or destroyed.

The governor says just trying to coordinate emergency supplies, like ordering tens of thousands of generators, devolved into "chaos".

"You'll deliver something, expect the roads are flooded and the roads blocked," said Cuomo. "We'll call them on the telephone, except the power is down so the telephone's not working."

Cuomo says the major communication and delivery routes systems "collapse".

"It all deconstructs very quickly," he said.

Two Commissions appointed by Governor Cuomo on disaster preparedness and response say emergency teams need more sophisticated training, and they suggest public universities set up standardized programs.

The building codes need to be upgraded, the commissions say, and perhaps governments should rethink placing hospitals and nursing homes on storm vulnerable sites.

The commissions also recommend that New York stockpile some supplies and create an emergency fuel supply, to avert the hardships caused when key harbors and delivery systems were blocked after Sandy. They say gas stations need to be better prepared to be open during prolonged power outages. The commissions stopped short, though, of recommending that gas stations be required to buy backup generators.

Governor Cuomo says he's considering the matter, and he says other states mandate that gas stations purchase the generators. He says he "understands" the financial concerns, but says capacity is needed in "vital areas, evacuation routes".

The governor says money is tight, but he does plan to invest in more training for emergency workers and will offer a more comprehensive plan in his upcoming State of the State message on Jan. 9, 2013.

Two more commissions related to Superstorm Sandy and its aftermath have yet to report. One concerns long-term planning for coping with climate change. The other, a special prosecutorial Commission investigating the state's utilities and their performance after Sandy, will report its findings before the State of the State next Wednesday.

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