More than three years after Superstorm Sandy, NYCHA remains woefully unprepared to deal with a similar disaster and it needs to accelerate its preparations, according to an audit by city Comptroller Scott M. Stringer.
Property managers did not have accurate emergency contact information for 80% of the tenants who were in wheelchairs or relied on life-sustaining services such as oxygen tanks, and they also lacked information on tenants who were blind, deaf, vision or hearing-impaired, mentally challenged as well as people who relied on canes, crutches and walkers, said the report.
NYCHA has also failed to conduct emergency training events at 78% of its developments and neglected to create “after action reports” identifying strengths and weaknesses of the emergency response in 93% of the drills it did hold, said the report. The audit also urged the Authority better define the roles, responsibilities and hierarchy of personnel responsible for emergencies and disaster planning.
NYCHA was swift to contest the findings, issuing a statement accusing the Comptroller of “cherry picking data and shifting timelines to paint an outdated picture of NYCHA.” The authority contended it had “worked to fundamentally change the way we approach emergency preparedness” in the last 18 months. And its Office of Emergency Preparedness, createdin June 2014, NYCHA said, helped it to respond to “five large-scale emergency and security events,” such as a detection of Legionella bacteria at the Melrose Houses in the Bronx. A Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan is also in development, according to the Authority.
NYCHA’s report did not appease Stringer, who fired back in a statement that NYCHA is “very good at preparing for storms that don’t happen, but less effective at managing its lists of who needs help in case of an actual storm, figuring out who will be in charge, and determining exactly how it will power its buildings in case of a loss of electricity.”
After Superstorm Sandy in 2012, about 80,000 of NYCHA’s more than 400,000 residents were left without essential services such as heat, electricity and elevator service after the deluge swamped basement heating and electrical systems in 402 NYCHA buildings, many of them high rises. Some residents were stranded on upper floors without electricity, food or needed medicines.