Concerned about what to do in an emergency on Roosevelt Island? According to Chief Charles Lamberta of the FDNY’s 45th battalion, located in Long Island City, Queens, the answer is almost always to shelter-in-place – just stay home. “We focus on getting resources to the Island, not evacuating the Island,” he said.
Lamberta was one of seven panelists who spoke Thursday evening at an emergency preparedness forum held at Good Shepherd Community Center. The talk was the first in e a series of town halls to address our emergency protocols.
“You should have enough of everything in your apartment to last you 24 hours,” Lamberta advised the crowd that filled slightly more than half the seats in the large space. (To be fair, a suicide prevention forum and PS/IS 217’s curriculum night were also happening).
The Roosevelt Island Operating Corporation’s (RIOC) Public Safety officers, headed by Chief Jack McManus and Deputy Kevin Brown, are considered the Island’s first responders in case of an emergency. They remain on the Island 24/7 in times of emergency.
Both McManus and Brown have significant emergency experience; both officers were at the World Trade Center during the 9/11 attacks and both were instrumental in coordinating the rescue. McManus ran the command center for the two months after 9/11 and Brown was a lieutenant in the operations division. McManus told the crowd that he and Brown are qualified, up to the task, and Islanders are in the right hands.
Several panelists stressed the importance for Islanders to sign up for RIOC’s advisory system. This automated system sends alerts to cell phones and by email for important Island issues. “That’s the best way for us to reach out to you in case of an emergency,” said RIOC President Susan Rosenthal.
If the Island ever did need to be evacuated, there is a plan in place for how that would look. According to McManus the Island has eight buses that can be deployed to move folks to evacuation centers if need be.
FDNY Chief Lamberta said he’d be able to pick up people by boat, via our ferry terminal. “I’ve been doing this for 35 years and I haven’t lost an Island yet,” he said.
Our evacuation centers are Frank Sinatra School of the Arts High School and Aviation High School in Queens, and PS 49/Beekman Hill International School right over the Tram on E. 56th Street in Manhattan.
That all being said, according to the panelists, Ed Powell Senior Outreach Commander from
New York City Emergency Management, 114th Precinct Officers Joseph Esposito and Keith Matthes, Lamberta from FDNY, and Deputy Chief Kevin Brown and Chief Jack McManus from PSD, communication is the most important tool in an emergency.
Members of the Emergency Preparedness Town Hall (l-r Rosenthal, Lamberta, Esposito, Matthes, McManus, Powell and Brown (standing))
Beyond the RIOC advisory system, McManus said that, in an emergency, his department will notify building managers. He explained that they meet regularly with the residential building managers, as well as representatives from Coler Hospital and Cornell Tech, to discuss procedures. PSD would also use the public address systems on their patrol cars to give live announcements and would employ our CERT (Community Emergency Response Team) volunteers, headed by RIOC Board member Howard Polivy.
When the red bridge is up, there is now a basic life support ambulance as well as a fire engine on the Island. In the near future, PSD is moving forward with the blue-light system in which calls will go directly to their dispatcher, who will be responsible for calling for backup from NYPD or FDNY when need be.
Deputy Chief Kevin Brown said that, although RIOC has an emergency plan in place, “You have to have a “self plan” as well.” He suggested always having a packed “go-bag,” and making sure it contains any necessary prescription medication, and water. He asked residents to inform PSD of their vulnerabilities or ability issues so any rescue attempt can include the appropriate special equipment or personnel.
In case of a fire, Lamberta said, “you very rarely have to leave your apartment.” Because most of our high-rise buildings are considered fireproof, you should only leave if your apartment fills with smoke. That being said, he explained that heat usually rises so, if you’re above the fire, check the stairwell and, if it’s clear, descend. If you’re on the fire floor, close your door, stay put, and wait for FDNY to come to you. It’s very rare that a fire will spread from one apartment to another, Lamberta explained.
This was the first in a series of Town Halls to address our emergency protocols. The next one will cover an active shooter situation.