Hurricane Sandy preparedness in New York City reviewed in new report

May 3, 2013 2:22:01 PM PDT
New York City officials say the city should take a roster of steps to handle natural disasters better after Superstorm Sandy. Suggestions include buying more police boats, developing a system to track patients after hospital evacuations and lining up more generators, boilers and electrical repair gear.

"Hurricane Sandy tested the city's ability to respond to a large coastal storm - from providing shelter to residents of coastal areas to removing thousands of tons of damaged trees to providing food and supplies to affected residents," Deputy Mayors Linda Gibbs and Caswell Holloway wrote in the post-Sandy self-analysis issued Friday.

Sandy walloped New York on Oct. 29, killing more than 40 people in the city, damaging thousands of homes and knocking out power to an estimated 1 million people.

"Overall the response was very strong by city agencies, pretty tremendous across the board," Holloway said at a briefing Friday. "But notwithstanding all these things that we were able to put into place, we know we can do it better."

Among them: Many people didn't evacuate. People ended up staying in shelters for longer than the three days the facilities were designed for. Some critically needed city vehicles couldn't get gas.

The report assesses both life-and-death issues like evacuation - recommendations include reviewing routes to account for the possibility of flooding or road closures - and such matters as working with volunteers. It lists dozens of suggestions.

Many involve creating task forces or crafting better plans to address such needs as restoring power, distributing food and water, checking on homebound people and returning patients to evacuated hospitals once they're running.

But the report also suggests some on-the-ground steps, including getting more mobile fuel facilities, deploying city staffers faster to work with community groups on relief operations and working with companies to extend cellphone towers' backup power.