The Montauk Playhouse Community Center will have a generator by summer. The Village of East Hampton is to donate a used one that will be delivered within the month, Bruce Bates, the director of East Hampton Town’s emergency preparedness program, told the Montauk Citizens Advisory Committee on Monday.
The playhouse is one of three shelters in the hamlet, along with the Montauk School and the Montauk Downs clubhouse. Even though the latter have generators they were not open as evacuation centers during Sandy because the American Red Cross was unable to staff them.
It was estimated that a new generator would cost upward of $300,000, while the one donated by the village will require only several installation components, Mr. Bates said. The town will be responsible for future maintenance.
Mr. Bates had been invited to the meeting to go over the town’s emergency services, with residents concerned since Hurricane Sandy proved how vulnerable the hamlet can be. Residents have noted that if the ocean breached Route 27 and flooded the area, access to Amagansett and East Hampton would be cut off.
Montauk Fire Department Chief Richard Schoen was also at the meeting. He said the department has formed a committee to come up with a system for emergencies and to equip the three evacuation centers. “We missed Sandy by 80 miles,” he said. (The Montauk Firehouse is an evacuation center for department volunteers and their families.)
Mr. Schoen said the committee had identified areas that would be vulnerable if waters were to seep through the hamlet. Maps are now at the firehouse that show 700 houses in danger zones. “That’s unacceptable,” he said.
Although the department had lobbied for a generator, it had not collected funds for it, he said. Part of the committee’s plan is to unlock a Red Cross trailer that has been parked for three years in a lot in front of the Playhouse. It apparently contains blankets, cots, towels, and pots and pans, Mr. Schoen said. He noted that the hamlet’s population in summer increases from about 3,500 to 25,000 to 30,000, most of whom would be given early warning and the chance to leave. “If we can get rid of some 20,000 of them that would be good,” he said. He estimated that about 500 people in Montauk might seek shelter in certain situations.
The committee and the town’s Human Resource Department had sent out a questionnaire to identify those that might be bedridden or have medical needs during emergencies. Those that register would be contacted within 48 hours of a storm’s approaching, Mr. Schoen said. Volunteers have already been visiting aging or medically dependent residents so there will be no confusion in a storm. “We will not be caught flat footed again,” he said.
“Personally I feel it’s the town’s responsibility. They have the tax power and the manpower. But if we become an island, the town can’t help us,” he said.
Mr. Bates agreed that advance notice is key. Evacuations are called by Suffolk County’s fire and emergency services. Volunteers are needed to take Red Cross training classes, he said, and he had not seen anyone from Montauk at a recent class held in East Hampton.
Those interested will have an opportunity to take the class on April 13 at the Montauk firehouse from 9 a.m. to noon, with registration starting at 8:30 a.m. Another certification class will be conducted by the Red Cross at a later date for evacuation center managers. Moreover, by federal law an evacuation center is not allowed to open without medical staff, law enforcement, and a mental health professional on site.
Another problem faced by emergency service workers is that in many cases people don’t want to leave their homes or pets. Mr. Bates said the best information can be obtained on the town’s Web site. He also offered other Web site information sources, including a Suffolk County storm surge mapping tool that allows residents to punch in their addresses and receive specific information, including vulnerability to flooding. The address is suffolkcountyny.gov/departments/firerescueandemergencyservices/stormsurgezonesshelterlocatormap.aspz.