County agencies prepare for emergencies
TRI-COUNTY AREA—While the immediate area of Yates and Schuyler Counties has not been hit by the flooding experienced in some Southern Tier areas, unrelenting rain can still be a problem.
Last week, the two counties were put under a flood warning, while Schuyler was under a flash flood watch on Thursday. Due to the rain that same day, Schuyler Sheriff Bill Yessman closed off Cayuta Lake to boat traffic until the water levels dropped. The sheriff’s department reported docks under water and a large amount of floating debris. Seneca, Waneta and Lamoka Lakes also experienced high lake levels and debris.
In order to respond to such weather related issues the state has urged counties to approve hazard plans. Diane Caves, deputy director of Yates County Emergency Management, explained the multi-jurisdictional hazard mitigation plan combines the municipalities under one, unified plan. She said the state is mandating counties have this in place to receive funds from flooding damage. The plan itself is how the county will respond to flooding.
However, Caves explained all towns and villages must approve the plan for it to work. Several municipalities have approved it recently, but there are still some who have yet to vote.
As part of the plan, the Yates County Office of Emergency Management maintains agreements with more than 60 public and private sector agencies and organizations that call on participants to provide and share a wide-range of community resources in a disaster or emergency. Participants in the agreements include local towns and villages, government departments and agencies, volunteer fire and ambulance services, public schools and the college, medical facilities, food pantries, veterinary clinics, church and religious service organizations, and businesses. The agreements were established in 2008 where participating organizations can provide, if possible, the resources and services they maintain to benefit the community in a disaster or emergency. Caves said it also lists the county’s resources that would need protecting and how.
Schuyler County Emergency Management Services Coordinator Bill Kennedy said they passed the hazard mitigation plan three years ago. He explained any county without this in place is not eligible for certain funding. He said the plan addresses where in Schuyler County improvements can be made to prevent damage. Kennedy explained this led to flood walls being constructed in Schuyler.
Caves also said the emergency management office is active in monitoring storm fronts that might affect the area. Caves said the National Weather Service office out of Binghamton held conference calls with counties last week due to storm threats. She added there were five such calls within a 24 hour period last Wednesday.
When a disaster does strike, firefighters and responders can be sent in from other counties. That is what both Yates and Schuyler Counties did for areas hit by Hurricane Irene. Caves explained the officer of emergency management handles the assignments. She said the state sends out notifications from counties asking for specific help; the counties then respond with what they can provide, including manpower. The state then directs that help to the counties requesting aid.