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Guest Column: State Sen. Tom O'Mara

"Never take emergency preparedness for granted"

ALBANY, Sept. 10, 2017 -- With the people of Texas and Louisiana recovering from Hurricane Harvey -- together with Hurricane Irma cutting a path of destruction across the Caribbean and Florida -- the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season serves as a reminder, everywhere, of the importance of never taking emergency preparedness for granted.

Of course, our region is no stranger to natural disasters, emergencies, or tragic accidents. We understand that disaster can strike at any instant. Accompanying this knowledge is a recognition of the absolute bravery and selflessness shown by ordinary citizens, passersby, family members, friends, neighbors, and, of course, first responders in the face of disaster. The instant outpouring of assistance and generosity is always, without fail, remarkable.

As always, we can never be grateful enough for the continued service of local emergency first responders to all of our communities. I have said it many, many times in the past; however, it always bears repeating: On behalf of the residents of the Finger Lakes and Southern Tier regions, “thank you” to those who come to the rescue in so many different and crucial ways.

Time after time after time we have been reassured -- and had our faith and hope restored -- through countless gestures of caring and commitment, rescue and recovery. A thousand stories go untold, but collectively they stand as the most powerful force of renewal. We simply do not carry on without them. In recent days, local Red Cross volunteers, businesses, churches, schools, scout troops, and so many other institutions, organizations, and everyday citizens have responded to the current disasters.

In 2014, New York State launched the Citizen Preparedness Corps with the goal of training 100,000 New Yorkers “to be first responders in their own homes and in their communities.” The program seeks to provide citizens with tools and resources to help them better prepare for and respond to emergencies and disasters. To date, forums have been held in every county within the 58th Senate District (Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Tompkins, and Yates counties), and more are scheduled each year.

Members of the New York National Guard lead the sessions and work with experts from the state Division of Homeland Security, Office of Emergency Management, and Office of Fire Prevention and Control. All of the programs are coordinated with local county emergency management personnel. The course provides a valuable introduction to disaster response. Participants are advised on properly preparing for any disaster, including developing a family emergency plan and stocking up on emergency supplies. Additional information is on the New York State Prepare website:

State and federal governments also provide critical funding to help localities strengthen and upgrade their emergency response capabilities. For example, just last week regional counties were among the counties statewide awarded a share of $220 million in funding to help enhance and support local emergency response systems. These timely and important public safety and emergency response grants make a difference for local emergency response teams. Emergency preparedness, response and recovery are fundamental government responsibilities.

Yet as the years have gone by, whenever we highlight the importance of local emergency services, one fact has been constant: the ranks of local volunteer firefighters, EMTs, and other emergency services personnel are declining. It’s been well documented by prominent organizations like the Firemen’s Association of New York (FASNY). Some rural counties across upstate New York, for instance, have experienced as much as a 50-percent depletion of their EMT ranks.

For the foreseeable future, New York government will have its hands full on many fronts. We face stubborn economic and fiscal challenges, as well as challenges in our schools, on maintaining our local roads and bridges, and so many more. Our long-term focus, in my view, must include the ability of local volunteer fire companies and ambulance services to recruit and retain volunteers. There are factors outside of government’s influence that contribute to declining volunteer ranks. Nevertheless, there are actions that government can and should take to help reverse it.

Photo in text: State Senator Tom O'Mara

Schuyler County Officials

Legislature Members:

Top row (from left): Dennis Fagan, Jim Howell, Michael Lausell, Van Harp

Bottom row: Carl Blowers, Barbara Halpin, Phil Barnes, Mark Rondinaro


Legislature Chairman

Dennis Fagan, Tyrone 607-292-3687

Legislature Members:

Carl Blowers

Van Harp

Jim Howell

Barbara Halpin, 594-3683

Michael Lausell

Phil Barnes, Watkins Glen, 481-0482

Mark Rondinaro

County Clerk: Linda Compton, 535-8133

Sheriff: William Yessman, 535-8222

Undersheriff: Breck Spaulding, 535-8222

County Treasurer: Harriett Vickio, 535-8181

District Attorney: Joseph Fazzary, 535-8383


State, Federal Officials for Schuyler County

Sen. Charles E. Schumer

United States Senate
313 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510-3201
DC Phone: 202-224-6542
DC Fax: 202-228-3027
Email Address:

Sen. Kirsten E. Gillibrand

United States Senate
478 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
DC Phone: 202-224-4451

State Senator Tom O'Mara -- Chemung, Schuyler, Steuben, Yates, western Tompkins, Enfield, Ithaca (Town and City), Newfield, Ulysses(Trumansburg)

Room 812, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12247
Phone: (518) 455-2091
Fax: (518) 426-6976

Assemblyman Phil Palmesano-- Steuben, Schuyler, Yates
Room 723, Legislative Office Building
Albany, NY 12248
Phone: (518) 455-5791


© The Odessa File 2017
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869