Assemblywoman Aileen Gunther (D-Forestburgh) said the Assembly’s budget proposal contains funding for a new disaster planning and preparedness program, providing aid to counties. Under this proposal, Orange County would receive $102,410 and Sullivan County would receive $22,190.
“Disaster planning and preparedness is more relevant now than ever. Nationally, Americans have seen the worst of what a natural disaster can do when Hurricane Katrina nearly destroyed entire cities and crippled others.” said Gunther. “Last year, our community learned first hand the devastation a natural disaster can leave behind when destructive floods ruined property and in some cases, livelihoods.”
Recent events both nationally and locally have led many municipalities to re-examine their readiness for natural and man-made disasters. Assembly hearings made clear the need for well-developed plans and a well-coordinated, efficient response. Assemblywoman Gunther went on to say that she participated in an Assembly hearing on dam safety and feels New York needs a statewide management plan for disasters. She is working to make sure dams in Orange and Sullivan counties are safe and well managed.
“This proposal is particularly significant to me. I was very involved in the disaster response effort after last year’s floods,” said Gunther. “This proposal will provide counties with the means to take sound, effective action that can potentially help save lives and property.”
There are 35 high-hazard dams located in Orange and Sullivan counties. High-hazard dams are located in areas where failure may cause loss of human life, serious damage to homes, industrial or commercial buildings, important public utilities, main highways or railroads and/or will cause extensive economic loss. Heavy rains caused the April 2005 floods that brought millions of dollars in damage to homes and businesses.
Proper disaster preparation requires awareness and expertise. The Assembly’s proposal would see to it that every county has the resources it needs to create effective and efficient emergency plans. Gunther noted the additional funding could be used for communication to promote better collaboration between local officials and emergency workers during disasters.
“Unfortunately, residents of Sullivan and Orange counties know all too well the damage that can result from a natural disaster,” said Gunther. “The recent tragedy in Hawaii is a chilling reminder of the need to ensure dams are safe. It is imperative that this proposal makes its way into the final budget, so our communities can be better protected.”