How Does New York City Prepare For A Disaster Like Harvey?

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) – Emergency management officials in New York City are making sure all systems are a go if a storm like Harvey hits and evacuations are ordered.

CBS2’s Political Reporter Marcia Kramer took a look at the city’s disaster plan Friday.

You first saw it in action after Superstorm Sandy – the hallways at Totenville High School on Staten Island filled with people whose homes were flooded, given shelter and life’s necessities as the storm raged. Now, New York City has more than 500 buildings, mostly schools, as part of detailed shelter preparedness plan.

“That allows us to house 400,000 people,” Office of Emergency Management Assistant Commissioner Herman Schaffer explained.

The ability to take care of people victimized by a natural disaster is taking on new meaning in New York City, because of the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey in Texas.

Robert Mascali, a former deputy commission in the city’s Department of Homeless Services, helped draw up the first shelter preparedness plan in 2006.

“The plan was really long in the making, but it’s one of the best plans in the country I believe,” he said.

He showed Kramer some of the things the city has warehoused if it has to open shelters, like wheelchairs, crutches, medical supplies, baby supplies – you name it.

Schaffer said the city is closely monitoring the weather situation, because storm season doesn’t end until November.

“We start tracking these things as soon as they come off the coast of Africa. So if it looks like it’s going to affect us, we start meeting 120 hours out,” he said.

That’s five days before a storm is expected. But the city doesn’t wait for the rain to start before it starts evacuating people from flood zones. It wants people out of harm’s way way before that.

“Actually, two days out we will be able to expect people to start coming into our shelters,” Schaffer said.

“The cautionary tale is: You don’t want to have happen what happened in Katrina and now it’s happening in Houston,” Mascali said. “We are prepared in New York City. People can feel confident that the city is prepared for a storm.”

Mayor Bill de Blasio called the disaster plan robust, adding that thousands of city workers are ready to kick into high gear if needed.

The city’s shelters also include rooms for pets, including food and kitty litter. But hopefully they like chicken—the city has huge stockpiles of chicken-flavored pet food.

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