If the devastation from Hurricane Irene has taught us anything, it is that disaster can strike at any time. Sections of upstate New York, originally thought to be spared from the storm’s path, took heavy flood damage when Irene moved further inland at the last moment. Even more unpredictably, the Eastern United States recently experienced an earthquake so strong, only one of comparable strength had occurred in the past 100 years.
While we may not have experienced Irene’s wrath in Western New York, still fresh in our minds is the “October Surprise” storm of 2006 which showed just how volatile the weather can be here in Western NY. Weather services issued warnings less than 24 hours before snow began to fall, yet over 300,000 people were left without power, some for over a week. Hastily, many residents were forced to purchase emergency supplies such as lanterns, batteries, coolers and gasoline-powered generators just to get through.
With these disasters in mind, my legislation creating a tax-free window to buy emergency supplies for the entire month of September (A.3356) is vitally needed. Florida already has a law on the books that provides a two-week “sales tax holiday for hurricane preparedness” before the start of hurricane season. While this exemption has certainly helped lighten the load on taxpayers’ wallets, more importantly, it creates an excellent opportunity to promote emergency preparedness and get residents properly equipped before the disasters take place.
While the snow storms in Western New York don’t get nearly the same publicity as hurricanes, they can also be just as devastating. The proposed tax exemption period would go a long way toward achieving a higher level of preparedness.
A wide range of emergency products would be included in the tax exemption. They include: snowblowers, electric shovels, shovels, roof rakes, ice choppers, rock salt or calcium chloride pellets, generators, extension cords, power strips, portable electric heaters, batteries, radios, flashlights, lanterns, self-powered light sources such as chemlights and light sticks, fuel containers, batteries, power inverters, cell phone chargers, carbon monoxide detectors, smoke detectors, auxiliary sump pumps and fire extinguishers.
The American Red Cross has several tips for emergency situations that I would recommend to everyone. When faced with a disaster situation, make sure you have a radio tuned to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) weather service to keep informed of developments. Prepare your house by closing all windows and doors, turning off propane tanks and unplugging small appliances. Turn refrigerators and freezers to their coldest settings and leave them shut as long as possible. Having an evacuation plan ready before a disaster strikes, along with at least three days worth of water, food, medical and other supplies, can be the difference in you and your family’s survival. I can’t stress enough the importance of being disaster ready, and it is my hope that my bill will go a long way toward promoting awareness statewide.