The Village of Roslyn Harbor took steps toward improving its emergency management communications system at its March 14 board of trustees meeting by taking advantage of the expertise of one of its residents.
The board met with and heard suggestions from Dina Kussoff, a Roslyn Harbor resident who works as a volunteer firefighter and with the county’s Emergency Management office.
“Being prepared for an emergency is hard,” Kussoff said. “Even Emergency Management has a hard time being prepared.”
Kusoff knocked on neighbors’ doors to offer her help and served as an advisor to the board during Hurricane Sandy.
But, Village of Roslyn Harbor Mayor David Mandell said, he had not yet met her and wanted to avoid the communication breakdown that he felt occurred between residents and the board in the event of a similar emergency.
Kusoff said FEMA offers online classes in setting up an emergency system that align with the National Incident Management System’s requirements.
“There are many different layers of people involved in an emergency process, and it really shows you how to set up an emergency system,” she said.
NIMS classes are offered for higher education, federal workers, law enforcement and public works personnel, as well as for maintaining health care, food and other resources.
Kusoff suggested the village contact Swiftreach Networks, a company which specializes in mass text messaging systems generally utilized by companies and organizations with a lot of members, such as school districts.
But, she said, the program is expensive and wasn’t sure whether the county uses the program.
Village attorney Peter McKinnon suggested another alternative the village could utilize in the interim.
“What you could do is record a message on the Village Hall answering machine, so that if phone lines are still up people can call the Village Hall and you can give them directions on what to do and give them a place to at least be updated,” McKinnon said.
Even if the village couldn’t find a cheaper text messaging system, Mandell asked whether the board could gather phone numbers and addresses for the village’s 370 residents to keep them informed.
“At least if we had a printed list of phone numbers and addresses for the people in the village and there’s an emergency, we could split it up and text people ourselves,” Mandell said.
Treasurer Valerie Onorato said the village could mail a slip of paper asking for an emergency phone number for such a system when taxes are sent.
The board also discussed finding an emergency e-mail system that would also transfer emails to texts.