emergencypreparedness 120Just over a year ago, stunned by the lack of resources and a communication failure during a storm that knocked out electricity in 4,134 homes in the Town and Village of Lansing, Highway Superintendent Jack French told the Town Board that Lansing is not prepared for disasters.  French admonished the board to develop a disaster preparedness plan.  Councilman Doug Dake updated the Town Board Wednesday on  progress in developing the plan.

Last Fall an Emergency Preparedness Committee was formed, drawing from various stakeholder organizations that become involved in emergency response, including Town, Fire Department, School District and Tompkins County Health Department officials, a local farmer and a veterinary professor.  The committee has been working on a town-wide emergency plan since April.

A key recommendation from Cornell Veterinary Professor Bill Miller is to appoint an Emergency Liaison for the Town.  This person would coordinate the chain of command, appropriate responses, and communication among responders and to the community.

"It was brought up several times that the biggest problem in any emergency is communication, or lack thereof," Dake told the Board.  "Where would the call go?  Who would know the most information?  Who could get the appropriate (responders) where they need to be?"

Miller produced an inventory of potential hazard locations in the Town, including the salt mine, the power plant and other locations.  Dake noted that a number of local farms have emergency generators.  An emergency generator for the Highway Department, needed to power the gas tanks used to fuel emergency vehicles for the Town and Fire Department, was approved, but has yet to be purchased.

emergency flood fire 2014 400The Lansing Fire Department responds to an emergency during a 2014 flood

"We talked in the past and, I think, approved a standby generator for the Town Barn," Dake said.  "We have also discussed having a backup generator here at the Town Hall.  In a dire emergency there is certainly going to be a reason for decisions to be made and money to be spent.  We thought we'll need the capability to access computers and the infrastructure here."

On September 17th the Town Board voted to authorize a multi-jurisdictional all-hazard mitigation plan, mandated by the federal National Incident Management System (NIMS), and prepared by the Tompkins County Planning Department for the surrounding communities.  Lansing teacher and emergency responder Dan Ferguson reviewed Vestal's emergency response plan, identifying key elements of a plan.  

Committee member Katrina Binkewicz noted that the Town Web site should have a prominent section for emergencies, that is updated appropriately and contains links to emergency resources.

Pet management was discussed by the Board at length.  Town Attorney Guy Krogh noted that managing pets would help prevent rabies and disease problems, and provide housing for pets that would not likely be welcome in emergency shelters.  He noted that municipalities can outsource pet management.

"After Hurricane Katrina a federal law was passed and tied to FEMA funding," said Krogh.  "It says that in the event of an emergency you have to have a pet evacuation and animal emergency preparedness plan of some sort.  If you were not able to demonstrate that you have one your FEMA funding would not be available, or would be delayed while you went through a waiver process."

Supervisor Kathy Miller noted that the Town has a dog control contract with Country Acres, and may be able to contract for emergency services with them or a similar shelter.

Dake said the committee meetings have been informative and productive.  The committee is working on a list of action items, many of which are in progress.  It will eventually recommend its own plan to the Town Board that will address transportation and highways, fire, police, pet management, a Public Information Officer, resource management (including emergency electricity and water repairs), and handling alerts, evacuations, shelter facilities and staffing.