A Column of News & Comment by Senator James L. Seward
September is National Preparedness Month. Here in New York we have many recent reminders why it is vital to be ready for both natural and man-made disasters.
Hurricane Irene, Tropical Storm Lee and Superstorm Sandy were not that long ago and are still fresh in the minds of New Yorkers (and we are currently watching Texas deal with Hurricane Harvey). Many area communities suffered through those devastating storms and have worked extremely hard to rebuild. Other unnamed storms hit our region regularly, including several in the past few months, displaying the raw power of Mother Nature.
I have worked closely with others in state government to bring needed resources to our communities to help bounce back from weather-related destruction. Targeted grants for homeowners and businesses, appliance replacement rebate programs, and, most importantly, state assistance to cover the local share of public disaster response and recovery costs are just a few examples of our recent recovery efforts.
New York State also taken a proactive approach to rebuilding – providing flood mitigation grants to help flood ravaged communities reconstruct flood stricken areas and shore up streams and waterways to better withstand future storms. These grants will help make sure homes and businesses are protected for years to come without burdening local governments and taxpayers.
It is crucial that we take steps before severe weather strikes to prepare for all possible outcomes. I have partnered with state and local government officials to focus on strengthening our infrastructure, improving our emergency response, and enhancing our ability to rebuild.
We are also approaching the anniversary of one of the darkest days in our nation’s history – September 11th. Since that fateful date in 2001, we have taken great strides to enhance our national security and defense. We have also worked tremendously hard at the federal, state and local levels to upgrade our emergency preparedness as we ready ourselves for potential man-made and natural disasters.
While our first responders are extremely important to disaster preparation, everyone can play a role. All Americans should take steps to ensure that their homes, workplaces and communities are prepared for disasters and emergencies of all kinds.
To that end, over the last few years I have co-sponsored several Civilian Preparedness Training programs to help everyone be better prepared in case a disaster strikes. The free training sessions, lead by the New York National Guard, last about two-hours and provide citizens with the tools and resources to prepare for emergencies and disasters, respond accordingly, and recover as quickly as possible to pre-disaster conditions.
A complete list of upcoming training sessions, and the on-line pre-registration form, can be found at www.prepare.ny.gov, simply click on the link for training events. The events are free and open to the public, but you must pre-register and show ID at check-in. New dates and times are always being added, so I suggest that you check the website frequently. I will also post the information on training sessions in the 51st Senate District on my Facebook page at www.facebook.com/senatorjimseward. If you don’t want to wait for a training event, on-line training is also available through the same website, www.prepare.ny.gov.
The New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services website is another terrific resource. It includes links to the disaster training program information and serves as a comprehensive clearinghouse of safety and preparedness information from a variety of state and federal agencies. I would encourage you to bookmark the site, www.dhses.ny.gov, and visit it often for regular updates before, during, and after a disaster.
Finally, in the wake of Hurricane Harvey, I know many would like to help those in need. Several local fundraising efforts are taking place and I applaud everyone involved. If you are donating money, please be certain you contribute to a reputable charity. The American Red Cross is among the established relief groups and you can easily donate through their website at www.redcross.org.