Tonawanda News — BUFFALO — Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz highlighted the importance of emergency preparedness and announced a new health and human services plan during his second State of the County address Wednesday night.
Nearly three hundred people packed the Mason O. Damon Auditorium in the Central branch of the Buffalo & Erie Country Library to hear Poloncarz reflect on the achievements of his administration and plan for the challenges ahead.
Poloncarz began by lauding the county’s emergency response to the recent blizzard in January. He pointed out that Erie County is one of the only counties in the state to receive the National Weather Service’s StormReady designation.
“For better or for worse, we are known nationwide as much for our weather as our chicken wings. So, it’s a good thing that we are now also known for our emergency preparedness and ability to respond to a winter weather emergency,” he said.
During the blizzard — the first one to hit the region since 1993 — the county mobilized the emergency operations center and worked with state, federal and local officials to coordinate responses to the storm and communicate with the public. As a result, there was no loss of life.
The county has also drastically improved its public health emergency rating given by the National Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which analyzes communities’ access to an inventory of medical equipment and supplies. In 2011, the county had a failing grade of 65 percent.
Now, the county’s score is 95 percent.
“In less than two years, we went from an F to an A plus and if need arises, we are now prepared to respond,” Poloncarz said.
A number of other achievements were mentioned, including the county legislature holding the line on taxes and the reduction of FEMA’s audit from the 2006 storm. The federal agency initially sought $48.5 million from the county, but that amount was reduced to a repayment of $700,000.