Commissioner Forman confers with Deputy Commissioner Gregory Caronia of the Nassau Count Office of Emergency Management.
On Tuesday, Jan. 13, a meeting was held at the Village Club of Sands Point sponsored by Commissioner Peter A. Forman of the Port Washington Office of Emergency Management (PWOEM), assisted by Gregory Caronia, deputy commissioner of the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management and Theodore Fisch, director of the New York State Emergency Management Office. The meeting was called as the first step in assisting the many municipalities and districts that cover the Port Washington peninsula to assess and plan to deal with potential emergency situations.
The Port Washington peninsula, often known informally as the Port peninsula, is comprised of two ZIP codes: 11050 (Port Washington and Sands Point) and a portion of 11030 (Manhasset). As a peninsula, it has some unique geographical features and is landlocked on three sides by bodies of water and subject to water-related hazards. Additionally, Long Island has traditionally been evaluated by emergency planners as presenting some unusual difficulties, especially in cases when evacuations may be required or when time would permit an evacuation. Witness the events of the mid-1980s when the Suffolk County legislature voted 15 to 1 not to endorse any evacuation plan for the Shoreham nuclear plant under development on its North Shore. As the end of the LIRR line, Port could also be the recipient of large numbers of people if a major problem should arise on short notice requiring mass migration from New York City. The results from the hazard assessment are not in yet, many believe that hurricanes, flooding, and the various potential impacts from terrorism are among the main planning considerations.
The PWOEM sprang from discussions among the various member villages, the town, emergency service providers and the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management. The PWOEM encompasses the villages of Baxter Estates, Manorhaven, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Port Washington North, Sands Point and the Town of North Hempstead. The PWOEM covers most of the peninsula north of Northern Boulevard and covers about 30,000 residents and includes the businesses and residences along East Shore Road as well.
The PWOEM is a planning agency that works closely with the police and fire districts of the town and participating villages. The office first met in the fall of 2008 to discuss overall philosophy and develop a long-range plan for the peninsula. Commissioner Forman emphasized the fact that the PWOEM is not a first responder itself, according to Forman, "We are here to assist the many providers of services to the peninsula to help plan for a major emergency."
Forman emphasized the importance of viewing the office as a means of enabling, facilitating, planning and ensuring open lines of communications with the various participants in the program. He also pointed out that the member municipalities now have a non-mandatory mutual aid agreement in place amongst themselves. According to Forman, "While it does not require that the member municipalities assist one another in an emergency, it does, at least get the lawyers out of the way." The PWOEM is also focused on peninsula wide education.
The results of the meeting will be forthcoming and will be reviewed in order to determine next steps. As for the residents themselves, Forman emphasized that there are limits to what governments can do in a large emergency and that some "self-help" and planning are important. As a rule of thumb, residents should have a family emergency plan. Such planning should include handy access to important documents and a supply of bottled water, canned foods, and battery-powered radios. A more complete list to assist in planning for a family emergency and a disaster supply kit can be found on the web at pwoem.org.
The office coordinating the emergency response on the Port Washington peninsula currently works from the Port Washington Fire Department Headquarters on Port Washington Boulevard, which is a communication hub on the peninsula. A wide range of skills are needed to complete the work of the Office of Emergency Management and those seeking further information or wishing to volunteer their services may do so by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nassau County Police Department, 6th Precinct
The meeting included representatives from:
Port Washington Police Department
Port Washington Fire Department
Port Washington School District
Port Washington Water District
Port Washington Water Pollution Control District
Port Washington Sanitation District
St Francis Hospital
Sands Point Police Department
Emergency Managers (including mayors and trustees) from Sands Point, Manorhaven, Port Washington North, Baxter Estates, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Flower Hill (which is not a formal member) and the Town of North Hempstead.
The Public Works departments from Sands Point, Flower Hill, Manorhaven, the Town of North Hempstead, Port Washington North and the Port Washington Business Improvement District