Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hurricane Irene Heading Towards New York City, Emergency Alert Service Needed For Roosevelt Island - Building Lobby, Street Kiosk, Bus Stop Flyers Needed Too

Jonathan Kalkin suggests a simple emergency alert system for
Roosevelt Island residents. According to Mr. Kalkin:
Roosevelt Island needs an emergency alert system that notifies people via text. Most people don't have smartphones or quick access to email so RIOC advisories via email is not a comprehensive solution.

While I was on the RIOC Operations Committee I suggested a free and quick solution. RIOC can create a Twitter account and call it RIALERT or something like that. People without a Twitter account and just a cell phone could (note: this hasn't been created so don't do this yet) just follow @RIALERT by texting follow RIALERT to 40404 to get emergency alerts via text to their cell phones.

You would be able to opt in and opt out as you like. It would be simple and free for RIOC to do and at the minimum all the RIOC staff, PSD, and Tram operators could subscribe to it and be able to get quick instructions in an emergency.

The other day when we had the earthquake, I immediately ran down to the Tram after I couldn't reach anyone there via phone. They didn't know we had an earthquake and I was surprised that they were not aware and had not stopped service. It caught everyone off guard and I'm sure everyone did what they could at the time, but this could be a moment to learn from. In an emergency like this phone calls are hard to make and decisions have to be made quickly, so this may be a good solution moving forward.


At the minimum all RIOC staff/PSD/Tram Operators should subscribe to @NYCNOTIFY - which is the alert system run by NYC Office of Emergency Management. It is how I knew very quickly what was happening during the earthquake and I recommend that everyone considering the weekend hurricane subscribe even if just for the time being. Please note that normal text message rates apply.

To get text alerts from the New York City’s office of emergency management (@NotifyNYC). Just text ‘follow NotifyNYC’to 40404 in the US.

To stop getting text alerts send 'OFF @NotifyNYC' to 40404 Nothing beats keeping your eyes open and alert so don't rely on this alone, but it is a good tool. Stay safe everyone.

Emergency preparedness communications for Hurricane Irene was the subject of this correspondence between Roosevelt Island resident Eric Schwartzman and Roosevelt Island Operating Corp (RIOC) President Leslie Torres. From Mr. Schwartzman:
My name is Eric Schwartzman and I am a resident of the Rivercross building at 531 Main Street. I also used to write a blog on Roosevelt Island but have pulled back from actively blogging but still as a resident am keenly aware of issues affecting the island.

I am writing to say while I appreciate the PSD and other RIOC advisories sent out I wanted to suggest that current Hurricane Preparedness issues and information be posted on (1) the RIOC homepage and perhaps posted in the next day or two at (2) key poster kiosks, (3) every bus stop, Tram station and (4) every building lobby such that all residents, those who have Internet access and those that do not, have real time access to what RIOC is doing to protect our residents.

I appreciate your service to the island but ask that RIOC add to its service during weeks such as this as the residents appreciate all added efforts to reach them.
Ms. Torres replied:
We appreciate your email suggestion and plan to act on it.  I agree that clear communication is key and I will work with RIOC staff to convey information to island residents through signage.

However, since our advisories and web page can provide up to the minute information we will still encourage people to rely on them throughout the storm as electronic media can contain more timely information than any signs we post.
Thank you for your thoughtful email.
Mr. Schwartzman responded:
Thank you for your reply. I appreciate it very much.

Never intended to dissuade anyone from the web or email advisories. My point was the only info on the RIOC webpage, that I can see, is the Emergency Preparedness page way down the Public Safety drop down (labelled "Are you ready?") on the RIOC home page. Something should be posted, directly on point to this hurricane, this event, on the homepage itself giving direct info for those residents that do look to the website. Not just a link to somewhere else.

Thank you again for considering the paper signage suggestion as many residents who don't have email or PCs with internet connections, or even cells that receive text messages, will appreciate the effort and info. 
Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Matt Katz added:
Please note that the Roosevelt Island Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), under the leadership of RIOC Board Director, Howard Polivy, is in direct communication with NYC Office of Emergency Management.  If OEM designates Roosevelt Island for any attention, including evacuation, CERT will be activated through our phone tree.  Let’s hope we dodge this bullet,
Here's the latest Hurricane Advisory from RIOC as of 7:04 PM:
 Please be advised that as of this afternoon Governor Cuomo has declared a State of Emergency in New York in preparation for the potential impact of Hurricane Irene.

Please note, in a previous advisory we touched upon information that was provided by the New York City Office of Emergency Management regarding evacuations in New York City.  Roosevelt Island is in Evacuation Zone B, which means the likelihood of an actual evacuation in Zone B is minimal unless we are impacted by a major hurricane and advised by the Mayor's Office.

As previously stated, please continue to monitor the storm's progress on The Weather Channel,, your local news broadcast or the following link

Please feel free to call 3-1-1 for non-emergencies and 9-1-1 (or 212-832-4545) for emergencies.


Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group
and an earlier advisory from 2:40 PM
Please be advised that RIOC will be monitoring the progress of the storm scheduled to arrive in the New York City area this coming weekend. We are taking precautions to secure the operations of the island. Consequently, Transportation Services may be temporarily interrupted at some point. Subsequent advisories will follow as needed.

In preparation for the storm, we ask anyone who has potted plants on their window sills to bring them inside. Those having a terrace or an outdoor space, please make sure to bring in plants or any items that could be blown away by high winds which could potentially cause injury or property damage. Vehicles are discouraged from parking on Main Street, and we encourage you to utilize the Motorgate Parking Facility.

According to the NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM), Roosevelt Island is not an Evacuation Area for Hurricanes. We are considered Zone B. Please note that RIOC does not declare a State of Emergency. The Governor of the State of New York and the Mayor of the City of New York have that authority. Neither has done so as of yet.

The Weather Channel is, however, predicting that this may be the worst hurricane to hit the East Coast in a decade. Please continue to monitor the storm's progress on The Weather Channel,, your local news broadcast or the following link

As always feel free to call 3-1-1 for non-emergencies and 9-1-1 (or 212-832-4545) for emergencies.

We thank you for your anticipated cooperation.


Roosevelt Island Operating Corp Advisories Group
Will have more on Hurricane Irene tomorrow.


Guest said...

In reading that Mr. Kalkin had to advise the Tram that there had been an earthquake does not surprise me. I had to ask someone with PSD standing up against a wall yesterday morning " is there an evacuation plane here on RI "? She said, " yeah, there is " .

That was my response. The Tram is a focal point here for thousands everyday, and a very important part of getting on and off the island. There should be someone at all times in charge at a booth at the Tram that deals with day to day activity and issues or problems. 

There should be a booth on the Manhattan side as well. I am surprised that RIOC does not deem that important. I also that that PSD agents should be more proactive in helping the public to help keep ups safe and advised during trying times like these.

Still think a NYPD office and booths here would be more proactive in helping keep the residents feeling more safe and looked after.

PSD can continue their patrolling of the island in their cars and bikes.

Plan Ahead said...

Great to hear that Leslie Torres approves of some of Eric Schwartzman's suggestions and will implement them.

If he had not contacted her -- what and how would RIOC have communicated with residents?

Keep It Simple said...

Why does Roosevelt Island have to do its own thing? NYC already has an excellent system to get information to the public. You can get text messages, you can follow the web site, you can watch TV, you can call 311. I am sure I didn't list everything. The thing is that RI may be governed by the state, it is the city that is in charge of any evacuation measurements. Why adding just another layer?

SML said...

The professional Roosevelt Islanders don't like to admit that we are a housing project in New York City. 

Roozevelt said...

You must live in a bubble if you think Mr. "I'm not a RIOC Board Member anymore - but think I still am" Kalkin was the one who informed the Tram Engineers that there had been an earthquake.  They have equipment that tells them what's going on.  They just "Yes Sir" him to death so he can go on and mind his business.  Get real!