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Feb. 2, 2004

State of Emergency Opens Door for Assistance

Fulton - A State of Emergency declared in Oswego County on Thursday, Jan. 29, 2004, heightened awareness to emergency conditions and opened a door to possible state assistance, said Patricia Egan, Director of the Oswego County Emergency Management Office.

Oswego County Legislature Chairman Russ Johnson declared a State of Emergency for the county at 11:30 a.m. Thursday, as a severe snowstorm moved into the region and lasted for three days. The cities of Fulton and Oswego also declared local States of Emergency.

"The declaration is a precursor to prerogatives the chief elected official may choose to take to protect life and property," Egan said. "It differs from a 'snow emergency' and travel restrictions in that no limitations on people's movement is ordered.

"People should use extreme caution and common sense whenever a State of Emergency is declared," Egan stressed. "But the State of Emergency itself does not mean people can't travel, go to work or school."

The State of Emergency is in accordance with New York State Executive Law Article 2-B, which outlines the actions a chief elected official of a municipality can take when a dangerous situation that places the public at risk is imminent or present. It states:

"Emergency conditions exist that threaten public safety. (The Chief Elected Official) render(s) all required and available assistance vital to the security, well-being, and health of the citizens of this municipality. . . and directs all departments and agencies, including emergency services, to take whatever steps are necessary to protect lives and property, public infrastructure and provide such emergency assistance deemed necessary."

In announcing the State of Emergency on Jan. 29, Legislature Chairman Johnson urged people in the county to use extreme caution and to pay close attention to advisories issued by local mayors and town supervisors.

If specific actions to protect the public are necessary - for example, restricting travel on local roads to emergency vehicles only or establishing a curfew so people are not traveling after dark - they are done through "Local Emergency Orders" issued by the Chief Elected Official.

No emergency orders were issued in the recent snowstorm, nor did the county issue them during the Ice Storm in April 2003. Other counties in New York State have issued them in the past, such as Jefferson County during the North Country Ice Storm of 1998.

A county declaration of State of Emergency also does not supercede local States of Emergency. Often the declarations are in tandem, as they were Jan. 29 through Feb. 2. Local municipalities, including cities, villages and towns, are the first responders to an emergency.

Once local resources are depleted, Egan said, the county provides assistance. When the county's resources are stretched to the limit, she said, and a State of Emergency is in effect, the county may request help from New York State.

"We asked the state for help on Friday when the cities were overburdened and the county had no resources left to help them," Egan said. "The State Emergency Management Office and the State Department of Transportation worked with us to bring state DOT snow-removal equipment to Oswego and Fulton."

New York State Executive Law Article 2-B can be found on the homepage of the State Emergency Management Office, www.nysemo.state.ny.us. More information locally is available by calling the Oswego County Emergency Management Office at 315/591-9150.

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