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Pinellas County
Pinellas joins relief effort in New York City
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Photo by TALIA FRENKEL/AMERICAN RED CROSS
Neighbors in Staten Island, New York warm up by a fire Nov. 6, the day before a Nor’easter came through dumping more rain and snow on the hard hit area.
People across the United States are reaching out to survivors of Hurricane Sandy, including emergency management experts from Tampa Bay.

Millions of people in the Northeast are dealing with the death and destruction left behind after the storm made landfall Oct. 29 near Atlantic City on the southern coast of New Jersey.

Officially, Sandy is the second costliest hurricane in U.S. history, behind Hurricane Katrina. Officials place damage estimates at $30 billion to $60 billion.

Sandy’s storm surge flooded streets, tunnels and subway lines in New York City and millions throughout the region were left without power. And to add to the misery, a Nor’easter dumped additional rain and snow on the New York City metro area Nov. 7.

Federal Emergency Management Agency officials say people in the Northeast can use all the help they can get.

A team from Pinellas County’s Emergency Management Department left the morning of Friday, Nov. 9, and headed to New York City. Tom Iovino, Doug Meyer and Doug Blackwell joined emergency management professionals from Pasco and Polk counties on a mission expected to last 10 days.

The team members will be supporting the New York City Office of Emergency Management through the nationwide Emergency Management Assistance Compact. The team will help with logistics center staffing and other various emergency support function needs. They are expected to return to Florida on Nov. 20.

If time allows, Iovino, a member of the Communication’s Department, will be posting updates from NYC at pinellasem.tumblr.com.

Florida has pledged to do what it can to help its neighbors to the north. A team of Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission law enforcement officers went to New Jersey the first weekend in November, and emergency personnel from the Seminole Tribe of Florida traveled to New York to aid the Shinnecock Indian Tribe.

State emergency officials say that Florida teams will remain available to assist as long as they are needed. Individual emergency managers have assisted in Maryland with sheltering and mass feeding and another is scheduled to go to New Jersey to assist with donations management next week.

“Emergency management professionals from across the state of Florida are working to aid our neighbors in the Northeast in their efforts to respond to and recover from Hurricane Sandy,” said Florida Division of Emergency Management Director Bryan W. Koon. “I am proud of the teams who volunteered their time to help and know that Florida will continue to selflessly answer the call to aid our fellow Americans in their time of need.

"As the most hurricane prone state in the nation, we know that disasters can be devastating. Through donations and assistance from across Florida, we can help the northeast states recover and rebuild after Hurricane Sandy.”

Emergency officials urge Floridians to donate responsibly and refer individuals interested in assisting to www.VolunteerFlorida.org.

“The best way to help is to donate cash through a reputable relief organization,” state officials say. “Donating cash through established relief organizations allows for versatility to meet needs as they arise. If you have goods to donate, be sure to confirm the need through a relief organization before donating.”

AT&T and Verizon customers can text to donate $10 to the American Red Cross (text REDCROSS to 90999), Salvation Army (text STORM to 80888) or American Humane Society (text HUMANE to 80888). The donations are added to a customer’s phone bill. People interest in donation also can do so online. The National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster has a complete list of established relief organizations, which can be broken down by state. Just visit www.nvoad.org/donate.

Businesses who want to help are encouraged to contact the Federal Emergency Management Agency's Industry Liaison Program via email at FEMA-Industry@dhs.gov or call 202-646-1895.

As many as 41 deaths in New York City have been attributed to Sandy and 19 in Staten Island, according to media reports. The storm is blamed for at least 100 deaths in the United States and Canada with another 69 deaths reported in the Caribbean.

“Floridians well remember the aftermath of the 2004 and 2005 storms, Charley, Frances, Jeanne, Ivan, Dennis, Katrina and Wilma, and the long road to recovery that began after the dust settled,” Koon said. “In those situations, neighbor reached out to neighbor to help recover and rebuild.”
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