Public Safety

Providing Help in Sandy’s Aftermath

Leslie Luke, program manager for the County Office of Emergency Services, has been in New York assisting the with Sandy recovery efforts for the past week at the request of FEMA.

After a disaster, FEMA workers, volunteers, nonprofits, insurers and lot of donations converge on an area to help people in need. But coordinating the effort to connect thousands of individuals in diverse areas with assistance and resources is a complex undertaking. Leslie, who developed expertise establishing Local Assistance Centers for fire survivors here, has been participating in New York’s “Disaster Recovery Centers,” one-stop shops where people can get information, referrals to services, and immediate resources, such as shelter, food and medicine. His role has been to review the sites and identify ways to make them more efficient for the survivors.

In an earlier story, he explained some of the unique challenges the city is facing.

From Leslie Luke:

Breezy Point is one of the local areas that’s been covered extensively on the news and a recent episode of 60 Minutes. When Sandy arrived, the flooding was extensive and gas mains erupted and started house fires.  The streets are still filled with mud and water, and block after block residents are bringing their debris to the street where the Sanitation Department is picking it up and taking it to temporary staging areas. 

The map on the wall points out locations where a community member went up and down Beach Channel Drive  in Rockaway collecting information on what stores had supplies, and below it, people wrote notes indicating the location of seniors  who needed food deliveries or who had medical conditions.  

Not only were cars burned in yards, but there are flood damaged cars lining the parkways. Insurance companies are writing notes on the windows of the vehicles as a written record.

There are still power outages and gas stations where residents are walking up to fill gas cans for their generators.  Store awnings and signage are down and windows boarded up in the area.

A distribution center and a warming center in Rockaway are being run by a local church and managed by two people who managed Sean Penn’s relief camp in Haiti. One board in the distribution center lists the center’s needs. There’s a medical clinic for adults and children with all the medicine donated.

This area is still without power. Two makeshift cell phone charging areas were available in both the warming center and the distribution center.  

In Breezy Point, an area where a large majority of first responders reside, the force of the wind and water knocked homes off their foundations.

Driving through Howard Beach, there was a boat on the Main Road, even though the bay is two blocks away.