Written by Andy Newman, firstname.lastname@example.org Saturday, 12 October 2013 00:00
In the coming weeks there will be constant reminders in the media that the first anniversary of Hurricane Sandy is near, and what better time for residents to update their information with the local emergency alert service?
Peter Forman, commissioner of the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management, says residents can either sign up or update their contact information for free emergency alerts at www.NorthShoreAlert.org.
While both Nassau County and the Town of North Hempstead have their own emergency notification systems, Forman says the Port Washington-Manhasset system is able to notify residents on a more local, specific level—within minutes—through his connections with police, fire and weather services. Each member village, for example, can receive information and alerts specific to its own area.
Residents of Port Washington North, Baxter Estates, Flower Hill, Manorhaven, Plandome, Plandome Heights, Plandome Manor, Sands Point, Munsey Park and the unincorporated areas of Port are eligible to register. Forman hopes that Manhasset’s unincorporated areas will soon be included. The service has also been offered to Great Neck’s nine villages.
The system operates, like most emergency setups, by accessing a database of residents’ landlines but it can do so much more. Forman urges residents to register their cell phones numbers and email addresses on the website. Not all notifications are done by phone. Recently, for example, a comprehensive report on disruptive roadwork scheduled for Plandome and Stonytown Roads was sent via \ email.
“As we saw with Sandy,” Forman points out, “No one knew in advance which devices (phone, cell, Internet) would survive or function. People frequently change their cell numbers and emails are an increasingly important method of disseminating information.” Text messages can also be sent to mobile phones, email accounts and hearing impaired devices.
Forman, who has lived here for 13 years with his wife and three children, started the organization a little over three years ago out of frustration. “I was always attending community and village meetings and always left them feeling so frustrated,” Forman said. “I didn’t feel that Manhasset or Port had a good local notification system. There wasn’t a good system in place.”
The Port Washington resident estimates that the Port Washington-Manhasset Office of Emergency Management (PWM OEM) was able to call 90% of the peninsula’s residents before, during and after the Sandy crisis. “We’ve got a little more than 90% now,” Forman said. But many residents are dropping their landlines and using cell phones as their only telephone service.
Forman has been active in the Sands Point Civic Association, Residents for a More Beautiful Port Washington, and also served as treasurer of the Village of Sands Point. His work for PWM OEM, which involved countless hours in setting it up, is on an unpaid basis. As commissioner, he still receives no salary. Where he finds the time to balance the demands of the emergency system, his full time job and his family, is puzzling. “I’m really retired,” he said, almost seriously. “No, I’m really not retired.”
Forman is also the voice that residents hear when their phones ring during emergencies. After Sandy, he came in for widespread praise from call recipients, who cited how reassuring it was to hear how calm he sounded.
Praise for Forman’s service and his actions during the storm came to the attention of Landmark on Main Street. Landmark has chosen to honor him as their first “Community Leadership Honoree” on Saturday evening, Nov. 9, at its annual Spotlight Gala.