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Cuomo Forms 3 Groups to Improve NYS's Natural Disaster Preparedness

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New York State Gov. Andrew Cuomo has formed three commissions to study how best to overhaul the state's emergency preparedness and response capabilities and how to improve infrastructure to better withstand monster storms like Hurricane Sandy. The commissions have a Jan. 3, 2013 deadline for making recommendations.

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Major storms have revealed major weaknesses in the state's transportation, energy, communications and health infrastructures, Cuomo said in a statement today, Nov. 16. The new commissions—dubbed NYS 2100, NYS Respond and NYS Ready—will help prepare and equip the state for future natural disasters, he said.

"Over the past two years, New York State has been hit by some of the most destructive storms in our state's history, causing untold damage and the tragic loss of many lives," Cuomo said. The commissions will "seriously examine existing systems and present a comprehensive blueprint so we can bring our emergency preparedness and response capabilities into the 21st century and ensure our infrastructure is built to survive major weather incidents," he said.

Early on after Hurricane Sandy hit, Cuomo began talking about how the state should rebuild its severely damaged infrastructure to better withstand catastrophic events, says Mike Elmendorf, president and CEO of the Associated General Contractors of New York State.

"He's been saying let's look at how we build and where we build and that [severe weather events] are going to be the new reality," Elmendorf says. "I think the big picture for the industry is how do we rebuild."

Elmendorf says it is too early to tell how the governor's new commissions will affect industry. However, he adds, "I would think having some industry members [on the commissions] would be helpful."

Only the chairs of the commission were announced at press time. Each commission has a range of objectives.

The NYS 2100 Commission will focus on the state's infrastructure including strategies to protect existing transportation, energy, environmental and other systems to withstand natural disasters and other emergencies. Judith Rodin, president of the Rockefeller Foundation, and Felix G. Rohatyn, former chairman of the Municipal Assistance Corp, will co-chair this commission.

Other contributors to NYS 2100 include Timothy Killeen, an atmospheric expert and vice chancellor for research at the State University of New York (SUNY), the University of Buffalo's Transportation Systems Engineering Lab and UB2020's Strategic Strength in Extreme Events, and SUNY Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

The NYS Respond Commission's goal is ensuring that the state is ready to respond to future weather-related disasters. It will make recommendations to improve the planning, training and resource commitment that must occur before the next major weather event. Thad Allen, senior vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton, and Brad Penuel, New York University's Center for Catastrophe Preparedness director, will co-chair this group.

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