Legislator Denenberg’s Disaster ResponseTaskforce
Statement for Moreland Commission
After Legislator Dave Denenberg’s Disaster Relief Forums on November 27 in Bellmore, November 29 in Freeport and December 5 in Bellmore that provided FEMA, insurance and other assistance to people victimized by Hurricane Sandy, some people stayed behind to develop a strategic plan to address the problems that our communities experienced with regard to Hurricane Sandy and its aftereffects. Legislator Denenberg formed a Disaster Response Taskforce, comprised of civic leaders and residents committed to ensure that viable solutions are reached to prevent this disaster from wreaking havoc on our lives. It is important that these issues be addressed now so that the Moreland Commission’s report to Governor Cuomo is comprehensive and complete.
As the Moreland Commission’s role is to investigate the response, preparation and management of the utilities in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, I refer only to calamities that the people in our communities had to deal with in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as it has to do with LIPA’s handling of the storm.
I. Loss of Power: LIPA lost approximately 90% of its customers during Hurricane Sandy. Some possible solutions discussed include the following:
a. Underground wiring - LIPA has approximately 400 miles of wiring. Many Long Islanders believe that underground wiring would solve the problems associated from outages that were caused by fallen trees. However, underground wiring in areas that flooded proved more disastrous than those that were down from hurricane winds. South Bellmore, for instance, was one of the last areas to have their power returned. However, our group could research the cost of installing underground wiring in areas north of Merrick Road. Further, perhaps the towns and villages could change code to require either metal casings for the wires (as required by NYC code) or, perhaps the wires could be installed in pvp piping or other waterproof piping.
b. Distributed Electric Storage – Store electricity to be used when needed – instead of a system that requires us to use the electricity as soon as it is produced. New York’s electricity is designed to be used as it is made. There are distributed electric systems in this country that can store energy to be used when it is needed. This would especially be beneficial if solar energy were to become our dominant energy source. However, because LIPA does not have the capacity to store energy, homes with solar energy returns its unused energy back to the LIPA grid, rather than saving it for times when it is needed – such as for a black-out.
d. Distributed Generation Systems – including solar, geothermal and natural gas back-ups so that homes would never have to lose heat.
II. LIPA’s lack of communication and information: LIPA’s inability to respond to its customers’ phone calls and its failure to follow up with its requests to send out crews is inexcusable and must be addressed. Perhaps emergency crews could be hired to handle the number of calls they are receiving from residents. Further, there should be a better method to track outages online, listing specific outages and work orders for when homeowners can expect crews in their area.
III. Poor coordination between LIPA/National Grid, tree-trimming crews and outside contractors – There must be a centrally controlled, computerized system that efficiently communicates outages between LIPA and its substations and between the substations and the crews. There also must be teams of tree-trimming crews with electrical linemen to coordinate work orders more efficiently.
IV. Inspectors - The time it took for power to be restored was further curtailed because it wasn’t until the second week that LIPA told people that they would not turn on power in homes that had flooding problems unless they were inspected. They asked the towns and villages to do the inspections. And then they changed the requirements from day to day and people were never notified of any of these requirements. For a declared national disaster, electricians, plumbers
and contractors that are licensed by any outside municipality should be permitted. A list of licensed electricians, plumbers, construction workers, etc. should be made available to every customer. Perhaps, an online registry would help.
To further expedite the process, any individual home or business owner should be allowed to hire their own licensed electrical inspector to determine if their home is safe to have power returned, which would then be reimbursed by the responsible authority.
V. Untrained Linemen – Residents reported that some villages in Nassau County have been trained to handle downed trees and wires, while others were not. The Village of Garden City was devastated by the damage caused by the downed trees falling on homes, cars and wires. While residents awaited for almost two weeks for power to be restored to its community, otherwise competent Garden City workers stood idle because they had never been properly trained. It is imperative that Nassau County ensures that workers in all the towns and villages be properly trained to remove trees and repair damaged wires.
VI. Fallen Poles - LIPA and other telephone poles topple too easily during wind storms. It is suggested that all utility poles be reinforced with cement bases to strengthen them. .
VII. Traffic and street light outages – This is a safety issue that cannot be overlooked. Many schools remained closed because it was unsafe for buses to travel through intersections without working traffic lights. Further, dark streets is dangerous for motorists who must dodge fallen trees and live wires and leave entire neighborhoods vulnerable to burglaries. Traffic and street lights with LED or solar battery back-ups that automatically go on when the power goes out, should be installed throughout Nassau County. If it is cost prohibitive, battery-backed up traffic signals should be installed at the major intersections in the least.
As Chair of Legislator Denenberg’s Taskforce, I submit this statement for your review and ask that we be invited and included in the conversation for finding solutions to LIPA’s failures and ask that you review and consider implanting those suggestions we’ve included in the above statement.
Submitted by Claudia Borecky , Chairman
Leg. Denenberg’s Disaster Response Committee
For more information, call Claudia Borecky at 516-972-6988, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
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