Protecting & Serving New Yorkers

In the fall of 2012, Hurricane Sandy tore through the Eastern Seaboard, taking with it over 169 lives and 650,000 homes.  A 14-foot surge caused the first weather-related consecutive-day closure of New York Stock Exchange in 124 years.  And as New York fortifies and rebuilds, those affected are reeling in a $65 billion bill of damage and economic loss.

Leading up to and immediately following Hurricane Sandy’s landfall on the shores of New York, hundreds of certified SUNY medical personnel were on standby, strategically placed throughout Brooklyn neighborhoods; an entire college of marine-trained SUNY students and staff were positioned to house and assist hundreds of relief workers in the Bronx; dozens of disaster-trained New York State University Police were en route to the metropolitan area from every corner of the Empire State; and some of the nearly half-million SUNY students attending college throughout New York—many whose homes and families were in the direct path of the storm—began sending supplies to the region.

The spirit and resolution of the entire SUNY community, hand-in-hand with the vigor of every single New Yorker, shone through.  And while the impact that SUNY had during Hurricane Sandy was massive, it was not extraordinary; hundreds of thousands of students, tens of thousands of industry experts, emergency personnel, and healthcare providers make it their mission, in concert with the State University of New York, to deliver information and service to the community 365 days a year.

Researching Toward Resiliency

New York State’s diverse geographic regions are a sandbox for research, including that of tropical storm-related atmospheric events like Hurricane Sandy.

On the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Sandy, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of the New York State Resiliency Institute for Storms & Emergencies (NYS RISE), a new “applied think tank” led by SUNY Stony Brook University and New York University that will serve as a hub of research and education on emergency preparedness, as well as a clearinghouse of information regarding extreme weather and natural disasters.

The Institute will foster an environment of thought leadership and knowledge development regarding storm-hazards risk management; provide expertise to aid agencies in providing and quantifying resilience in ecosystem and infrastructure design, operation, and investment; and develop platforms for transforming predictions into adaptive measures. This approach will speed the translation from research to application to ensure preparation for extreme weather events, realizing the goal of a more resilient New York.

A Forward Commitment

While SUNY is proud to have served so many New Yorkers in need during Hurricane Sandy, there is an opportunity to scale its impact in the event of another natural disaster anywhere in the state.

Shortly after the 2012 storm, Governor Cuomo created the NYS 2100 Commission.  It was tasked with finding ways to improve the resilience and strength of the state’s infrastructure in the face of natural disasters and other emergencies by bringing together a panel of experts from a diverse group of stakeholders like energy, government, education, and academia.  Timothy Killeen,  President of the Research Foundation for SUNY, and Jack Quinn, President of Erie Community College, represented SUNY on the panel.

Among many infrastructure recommendations that the Commission made in 2013 was the need for growing the pool of available skilled workers, which are essential to handling the current and future needs of critical infrastructure and energy programs.  The experts also indicated a need for New Yorkers to have available shifting education in line with future labor market demands—something that Chancellor Zimpher championed in her 2013 State of the University Address by introducing Strategic Enrollment.

The Report cites that and energy infrastructure jobs often require highly skilled workers with years of training, so focusing training in these areas will help form a foundation for the continued development of New York State’s workforce for years to come.

These coming years will, in fact, be the brightest: New York is flush with research to identify the best ways to increase the quality of life; poised to nimbly respond to help its people at a moment’s notice, pulling in all necessary resources; and ultimately have these efforts be realized and sustained by a strong, organic workforce.