July 12, 2006

Bishop Hosts Hurricane Prep Forum

Bringing together experts on myriad facets of the issue, Congressman Tim Bishop hosted a hurricane preparedness seminar at Brookhaven Town Hall last Thursday morning. The broad-based panel was comprised of local officials, such as East Hampton Town Deputy Emergency Preparedness Coordinator Bruce Bates, Tom Neely, Southampton Town's Director of Public Transportation and Traffic Safety, and Commissioner Joe Williams of Suffolk County Fire Rescue Emergency Services, as well as representatives from the U.S. Coast Guard, the National Weather Service, the American Red Cross, the State Department of Transportation and the International Code Council, plus scientists from Stony Brook University who spoke of their storm surge research. Mike Beeman, the director of national preparedness for FEMA, was the special guest speaker.

The scope of the panel, Bishop said afterward, "demonstrates the breadth of this issue and how many different levels of government are involved in both preparation and the aftermath [of hurricanes]."

In the year since Hurricane Katrina ravaged the Gulf Coast, lawmakers on most levels of government, from towns to state reps have hosted similar preparedness conferences. Bishop acknowledged the idea was nothing new. What made his event valuable, he said, was that it planted the seeds of cooperation among the varied agencies. Already, the congressman reported discussions of panel participants planning further meetings and forming new collaborative groups.

Since last year, more and more officials on the East End have begun to agree, as Bishop observed, "We've dodged a bullet for 20 years, we recognize our luck won't hold out forever."

Of the alliances the forum may have begun to forge, Bishop was particularly pleased to see Williams and Beeman interacting. In the event of an emergency, a positive working relationship between the county commissioner and FEMA will be "a very valuable thing," Bishop concluded.

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