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Security boosted at airports during blackout

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Queens’ most vulnerable properties — its two airports and five power plants — were well-protected during last Thursday’s blackout, the borough president’s chief of staff said.

Most of the borough’s emergency procedures fall under New York City’s emergency preparedness plan, but Queens takes special precautions on its own to protect Kennedy and LaGuardia airports and its power plants, according to Alexandria Rosa, the chief of staff.

Queens provided additional security to the two airports and the plants concentrated in western Queens and coordinated with the Federal Aviation Administration, she said.

“We saw a professional and timely response in terms of protecting those outlets,” Rosa said.

New York’s Office of Emergency Management treated last week’s blackout as a power outage rather than taking the precautions associated with a terrorist attack.

“We don’t try necessarily to make judgments,” said OEM spokesman Jarrod Bernstein.

Bernstein said the OEM works together with the Police Department and fosters communication between all New York City offices, which still operate independently.

The NYPD instituted a stand-alone plan during the blackout, which allowed each borough to act as its own virtual police commission. Rosa said Queens was able to function well under this system because the borough has two centralized police patrols: Patrol Borough Queens North and Patrol Borough Queens South.

Ultimately, however, those divisions were still under the command of Police Commissioner Ray Kelly, Rosa said.

The offices at Borough Hall had no generators, said Rosa, but Queens Borough President Helen Marshall was out on the streets after the lights went out.

“The borough president spent Thursday night and Friday traveling around the borough talking with merchants, hospitals and folks generally that needed help,” Rosa said.

“We had one heart-wrenching situation, when the power first went out,” Rosa said. “We got a call from a woman whose elderly mother was on life-sustaining equipment in their house and she called 911. She couldn’t get through, and she was in a panic and called us. We were able to get an ambulance over there.“

“We received a couple of calls like that. We were able to respond as best as we could under the circumstances.”

Rosa said there are specialized plans in place for people who are on life-sustaining equipment. Con Edison has a list of people dependent on such equipment, so generally they are not turned off, but in the blackout the utility could not stop these people from losing power.

Rosa said she saw police going door-to-door in Bayside to check on residents who were on the Con Ed list.

Now that the crisis has passed, Rosa said she has found that people are very interested in being better prepared for emergencies should any others pop up. Marshall’s office will put out information that the Department of Homeland Security has issued on how to be prepared for an emergency.

Reach reporter Nicole Flatow by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

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