Looking back six months after Hurricane Sandy struck New York, Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano reflects on how his community benefited from the Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power program.
By Edward Mangano, Nassau County Executive
As Hurricane Sandy went from radar screen to real world, the storm surge was predicted to have a major impact on Long Island, where I am Nassau County Executive. It’s my responsibility to ensure the safety and security of the residents of this county. It is a job I don’t take lightly.
As the storm approached, I had confidence our emergency planning efforts prepared us to confront the worst of nature’s wrath.
The weather models weighed heavily on my mind. Much of the South Shore is composed of communities and barrier islands that are most vulnerable to hurricane wind and surge damage.
This was a dangerous storm and we knew it.
As the dire reports came ahead of the storm, I immediately ordered preparation for evacuation, shelter openings and the potential of power interruption.
The warnings weren’t exaggerated for communities all across Long Island, including Nassau County.
Going by the damage of past storms that resulted in either light damage or outright false alarms, residents didn’t anticipate the power of Sandy, which many came to regret. A large number of people lost the first floor of their homes, personal possessions, even their cars.
Day one after landfall, I knew we had a rough recovery job ahead of us.
Housing so many displaced people was our No. 1 priority. What made it tougher than many other places, housing here is at a premium on the best of days. On the tightest of deadlines, the state and FEMA worked together to implement an innovative program that would eventually be called STEP, or Sheltering and Temporary Essential Power.
Families with damaged homes would be placed in over 600 hotels, separated from their neighborhoods, schools and friends. The goal was to come up with a plan to fix damaged heating, electrical and hot water systems so that families could stay in their homes while planning and undertaking permanent repairs.
If it was successful, it would help Sandy survivors stay in their homes.
STEP has allowed hundreds of Nassau County residents to live in their home while carrying out bigger repairs. Not only are they not living out of hotel rooms, they remain in their neighborhoods where they are surrounded by friends and family.
When you combine STEP with the generous and selfless help of volunteers who helped muck out homes invaded by mud, sea water and worse, you get a heroic effort that will be a model for future response and recovery efforts after violent weather.
New York’s response and ongoing recovery after Hurricane Sandy is awe-inspiring and STEP is a program that I have been proud to be a part of.