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Town Offers Emergency Assistance

A string of natural disasters has plagued the Great Neck peninsula the last several years and local officials are working together to find more efficient methods of cooperation and communication. At last Wednesday evening’s Great Neck Village Officials Association meeting, the Town of North Hempstead presented a new program, a town emergency communication system, a program offered to the villages, virtually at no cost.


Ellen Birnbaum, the town’s director of inter-rmunicipal coordination, explained that this new town initiative is of “high quality,” yet at a low cost. The initial system would be free to each village, with charges only for uses such as mass phone calls.


Jon Kaiman, who just days before had left his post as town supervisor for two new government appointments, said that he had begun the process and had promised to explain it to the villages. Kaiman spoke of the June 2010 microburst that hit the Village of Great Neck so hard, and he spoke of the hurricanes that came in the following years. The town was there, each time to help, but Kaiman acknowledged the many power losses during each storm and the problems of communications at such times.  “We need to be able to communicate with each other,” he said. 


Kaiman and North Hempstead Public Safety Commissioner Andrew DeMartin detailed the new emergency communications system being offered to the villages. Michael Balboni, former state senator and serving as a town consultant from

Redland Strategies (a business dealing in crisis management, public safety and business development) emphasized that the system will allow villages to use town assets independently. 


The town now has its 311 system, which allows “robo” calls (mass phone calls) to residents, but more is needed. The new system the town has brought out does more and will allow phone calls to specific areas, if need be.  And each

village that signs on would have its own code to access the system, a code known only to the mayor (and others permitted by the mayor) and each mayor would have the ability to send out its own phone calls, text messages and emails to some or all of its residents. Cellular phone numbers and email addresses would be colleted by each village. In addition, should a village hall be shut down for loss of power, or for any other reason, the communication system would be available from any Internet accessible location.


The town would set up all of the infrastructures.  And this system will provide redundancy, allowing the villages to always be able to be up and running. “The town will provide the support and the network … the town will be the host and give you direct access  … and everyone will work together in a crisis … and we do work well together,” Kaiman said. And everything will be in “real time.”


Balboni assured the villages that “this works.” 


Village residents pay the town real estate taxes, and for that reason, the town will not charge for its infrastructure and set-up costs, only its out-of-pocket usage charges.


The town also plans to make its communication services available to town districts and to multi-village units such as the GNVOA.


The new town system also offers other features that villages and districts that districts and villages could avail themselves of. One is the town’s 311 complaint and information system can serve individual villages and districts as well, 24/7/365. Off-site data back-up, virtual computer systems and other technology would also be available.


Several of the village mayors said that they will visit the town’s emergency center to be sure that this system will work for everyone.