Innovative Disaster Solutions in Cattaraugus County
By Naomi Gennings, NIMS Coordinator
In New York, Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services (OES) has proven time and again to be an innovator in preparing for and responding to emergencies. Every year, municipalities are struck by disasters that require financial
assistance from not only New York State, but from FEMA as well. Applying for this assistance can be a daunting, confusing and frustrating task at times. There are certain requirements that need to be met by the municipalities in order to receive assistance, and this can be overwhelming. Cattaraugus County OES has routinely been among the first counties to provide all necessary information and meet all requirements for financial aid within the first 48 hours of a disaster. The Cattaraugus County OES staff has developed a process to prepare and work with the municipalities within the county even before a disaster, as well as assist them during the recovery period. The process includes (among other
measures) preventative training, ready-made assessment forms/worksheets, and the use of a state-of-the-art incident
On a regular basis, Cattaraugus County OES works with New York State (NYS) Division of Homeland Security and
Emergency Services to conduct classes for municipality officials that concentrates on their roles, rights, and responsibilities in regard to emergencies. These classes not only prepare them for what tasks are expected of them when an emergency happens, but also to prepare them for the steps needed for financial assistance and recovery. Classes are customized by including the municipality's unique needs and capabilities.
The main goals are to ensure:
ï® municipality officials are well educated in emergency response, and the requirements for financial aid;
ï® officials are empowered to take all necessary steps to meet those requirements, such as declaring a state
of emergency, issuing emergency orders, and familiarity with associated laws and requirements;
ï® open communication and partnerships between the municipalities and Cattaraugus County OES.
Damage Assessment Worksheets
When disaster strikes, Cattaraugus County OES takes the lead by calling each of the municipalities for damage information. This timely information is immediately entered into a specially-designed Microsoft Office Excel workbook that was created by Cattaraugus County OES staff, called the Damage Assessment Worksheets. This workbook is currently being adopted by NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, and adapted for their use. As designed, the workbook tracks damages and costs for State and Federal reporting purposes, and is made up of five worksheets; Total Estimated Costs, Preliminary Damage, Project Worksheets, Residential Damage, and Highway Superintendents.
The Damage Assessment Worksheets are a quick reference of total estimated costs for the municipality and associated residents. The importance of these worksheets is to have a running timeline of damages and costs as the operational periods progress, allowing for quick referencing for State and Federal reporting. It also shows whether the county has met the required threshold for financial aid. Each worksheet is designed to be used during the disaster, growing with the
size of the operation, along with pinpointing the areas of greatest devastation.
The Total Estimated Costs, Preliminary Damage, and Residential Damage worksheets are for immediate estimations.
The information is given to the NYS Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services to help determine if a state of emergency should be declared by NYS or if the area qualifies for financial aid. Furthermore, the worksheets are used to prioritize support from the county to the municipalities and to analyze any trending information.
The Project Worksheet is used following the disaster, when the recovery processes have started. The information that is entered into this worksheet originates from forms that the municipalities are asked to complete. These forms were intended to assist municipalities in documenting repairs along with providing State and FEMA representatives the initial information needed to start the reimbursement paperwork.
Cattaraugus County OES has invested in a web-based incident management system that allows for quick and efficient response during an emergency. The DisasterLAN (DLAN) system is a “virtual EOC” and is used to accomplish daily operational tasks as well as documentation during emergencies. Its capabilities include secure access by desktop and mobile devices, mass internal and external communication, incident and resource management, geographic information system (GIS) and mapping integration, and financial documentation.
Being accessible by multiple platforms allows for easy and secure access from any location by multiple Cattaraugus County OES users at any time. This streamlines response time, by permitting critical information to be disseminated at a moment's notice regardless of users' location or device. DLAN is not only Incident Managements System (IMS), Incident
Command System (ICS), and National Incident Managements System (NIMS) compliant, it is also Integrated Public Alert
and Warning System (IPAWS), Commercial Mobile Alert System (CMAS), and Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS) interoperable. For New York users, DLAN is compatible with NY ALERT and NY Responds too. During a disaster, Cattaraugus County OES uses DLAN to manage and allocate resource requests, disperse manpower, communicate vital information, map and analyze critically affected areas, and ensure proper documentation retention such as financial reimbursement requirements.
Cattaraugus County Office of Emergency Services continues striving for new and innovative ways to efficiently serve the
community. Staff are encouraged to think outside normal protocols to streamline response and strengthen municipality
partnerships. For more information about Cattaraugus County, New York and the Office of Emergency Services, visit www.cattco.org.