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Monday, June 3, 2013

Report From RIRA President Ellen Polivy - Roosevelt Island Power Outage, Emergency Preparedness, Evacuation Reclassification, Cert Training, Communciations & Blood Drive

OEM, FDNY And RIOC Personnel Conferring On 5/24 Roosevelt Island Power Outage

Roosevelt Island Residents Association (RIRA) President Ellen Polivy sends the following Report To The Community:
Power Emergency

This past Friday we had a reminder how the fragility of the systems we rely upon to sustain us when electric power was interrupted. I hope you were not seriously inconvenienced.

Before 6AM on Friday the Island north of Island House lost power when a car fire on the Koch - 59th Street Queensborough bridge damaged two of the three electric feeder cables serving Roosevelt Island. The other three feeds were out of service for maintenance. This is Murphy’s Law. A car catches fire on the bridge at exactly the time three of our feeds were being serviced and the driver chooses to stop exactly where it would damage two of the three remaining feeder lines.

Emergency response began shortly after 6 AM. By 5PM nearly all buildings had power for basic functions, although the emergency was only fully resolved Sunday morning. The time was necessary to patch systems and bring up supply and load demand in a measured, deliberate, fashion. This required that many buildings and facilities run temporarily on generators with carefully timed restoration of ordinary grid power service.

This type of emergency can happen at random times but we on Roosevelt Island were well served by a coordinated response by all agencies, starting with RIOC. They kept lines of communication open, got the buses out and running, converted the Tram to emergency operations, and helped get Con Ed in place and in action.

Most importantly, RIOC coordinated with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to give them the local intelligence necessary to ensure a well-coordinated response with FDNY, NYPD, ConEd, HHC, EMS, and the housing companies and facilitated keeping them all in the loop. Howard Polivy, RIOC Board Member and Chief of the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) attended planning meetings with these organizations and witnessed an impressive coordination of efforts.

I’d like to specifically thank the RIOC Engineering, Grounds, and Public Safety departments, and the executive and office staff who made sure this holiday weekend would be memorable, not notorious. I also thank all others who responded on our behalf.

Communication Challenges

This emergency highlighted one of the central problems for all emergencies, communication. There must be systems which allow detailed, local, announcements to be made that may reach us even when our electric power is lost without warning, and better than door-to-door. Some buildings may have central communications systems that allow phone and email blasts to get announcements out. But what if the electricity is out? These methods may not work. We need everyone to be reachable even without phone or email service. Maybe we need old-fashioned loud-speakers as well.

NotifyNYC ( is an important source of information that almost anyone can use:

To register online, click the “Enroll” link in the left hand menu on this page. You will be asked for basic contact and location information so messages can be tailored to your area of interest and delivered by the methods you select, such as email, phone, or SMS/text. You must then check your email inbox for a confirmation email from Notify NYC and follow the instructions to finalize your enrollment.

To register by phone if you do not have an email address, call 311 and ask to register for Notify NYC. You will then be connected to an automated registration system that will guide you through the registration.

Planning needed for emergency preparedness

Last Friday’s relatively small and relatively harmless power emergency reminded me that Roosevelt Island needs all building managers and emergency response agencies to gather and review plans and preparations. I’d like to hope that each building has its plan, with staff assigned important roles, especially securing the immobile and infirm, in coordination with Public Safety, as first-line responders.

RIRA had a glitch in our action contact list. Unfortunately the person who managed the contact list was without electricity and internet. Hence we couldn’t access the neighbor-to-neighbor alert list. In the future, we plan to safeguard a paper list to be used if the power is out.

I hope RIOC, in turn, keeps its own plan updated, and coordinates closely with OEM, so that the OEM master plan, which directs all the responding agencies and resources, is current and as complete as possible. Last Friday was reassuring in that the agencies were successfully orchestrated from OEM.

Roosevelt Island is likely to be reclassified under the city’s new evacuation zone maps, which will come out this June. There will be meetings to present the new classifications and review emergency plans and procedures. Roosevelt Island’s CERT team will have its role in publicizing the information as hurricane season begins.

CERT Team now recruiting new members for June training

CERT stands for Community Emergency Response Team. New York City has teams organized through the community boards and are under OEM. A primary role of CERT in New York is to augment the full-time first responders, FDNY and NYPD and here on Roosevelt Island, PSD. Teams also aid in community education and building resilience.

Interested in helping? A special CERT training session has been scheduled for 10 session over 5 weeks beginning June 18th, to be held at OEM Headquarters, 165 Cadman Plaza East. This is easily accessible from Roosevelt Island. Please contact Howard Polivy, RI CERT Chief if you are interested: or 212-362-2389.

Blood Drive

This past Saturday RIRA collected a record number of pledges for donating blood at our blood drive on Roosevelt Island Day. But please don’t let other people do the work for you. If you haven’t signed up yet, please do. Someone in the City needs your blood and you can make a difference. Even if you think you can’t donate, sign up anyway. You might be allowed to give this time.

You can sign up at the blood drive table at the farmers market every Saturday until Roosevelt Island Day and on Roosevelt Island Day as well. The blood collection will be done at the senior center from 10 to 4pm on Roosevelt Island Day (Saturday, June 15) Hope to see you there.

RIRA Common Council meeting is on Wednesday June 3 at 8pm.

Hope to see you there too. This will be the final meeting before the summer break of two months. Committees will continue to meet during the summer. You can find out more about the RIRA committees by going to


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