Column: Are we ready for September storms?

careyThey say Memorial Day starts the summer, and they say Labor Day ends it. But I think summer ends with the last of the September storms. It seems as if the weather calms down after Sept. 21, the official end of summer.

I recall vividly the disastrous hurricane of 1938, which wrecked such havoc on the East Coast from Rye all the way east to Rhode Island. It came, unannounced, in September of that year.

And yet, look at what happened in 2012.

It was not until late October that Hurricane Sandy hit us so badly that evacuation of parts of Rye was ordered. Advice to the public was sketchy and irregular. After the storm was over, some residents decided to see how we could better prepare for future storms.

To begin with, it seemed obvious whoever was in charge of combating the storm needed to be identified and given the necessary authority. The police department and office of the city manager are bound to be heavily involved, but both are now headed by temporary stand-ins. However capable they are at handling life-threatening emergencies, the sooner permanent replacements are installed, the firmer the foundation will be for creating an ongoing and ever-ready office of emergency management.

There is available to the City Council a skeleton force called the Rye Community Emergency Resource Team, or CERT. It has been incorporated as a New York not-for-profit and needs only encouragement from the City Council in order to become a reliable resource to undertake some of the tasks inevitably arising when the winds are howling, the water is rising, children are crying and grown-ups are frightened.

Part of the research done by CERT has consisted of observing how other communities prepare for emergencies. A delegation took a 45-minute drive to New Canaan, Conn., which has a well-organized emergency apparatus in place. Their head of emergency operations is a resident who works in nearby Stamford, Conn., where it is recognized he may be called away unexpectedly by New Canaan crises requiring his presence.

New Canaan relies heavily on CERT volunteers to assist its first responders and carry on tasks for which they are qualified so long as the need persists.

It behooves the City Council to grab the reins here, and not sit waiting for city officials to show the way.

Particular members of the council should show their leadership in preparing our community for the September storms that are bound to come, if not in September then at some other time; all kinds of storms, both meteorological and other kinds.