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Shelter Island Town to pursue improved emergency responses

Chief Jim Read acknowledged at Tuesday’s Town Board work session that two recent flooding events were not recognized in time to give residents advance notice.

As the Town’s Emergency ManagementCoordinator, Chief Read said he’s constantly looking to improve ways to respond and send notifications to the public.

Shelter Island Police Chief Jim Read. (Reporter file photo)

More changes are in the works, he announced Tuesday, in a three-pronged approach to improving efforts.

• Examination of roadways that need to be raised, or implementing other ways of dealing with flooding, which has been increasing.

• Purchase in 2025 of a “high-water vehicle” that would be assigned to the Emergency Service Technicians and paramedics for use in transporting patients from areas where more frequent flooding occurs, such as the Ram Island Causeway.

• Improvements to notifications, so when flooding is anticipated, residents in some areas can be warned to evacuate, rather than be trapped by impassable roadways.

It’s not just the Ram Island Causeway that poses flooding problems. Bridge Street and West Neck Road experienced flooding this year.

Bridge Street flooded in April. (Credit: Shelter Island Police Department)

Other spots will emerge through a study Chief Read and Town Engineer Joe Finora are working on to identify areas of concern, and develop means of circumventing problems caused by road flooding.

But with everything the two officials can propose and seek grant money to address, the public needs to be alerted to emergency and non-emergency but important information.

A part of West Neck Road underwater after a storm. (Credit Jim Colligan)

The Red Alert system that’s been in place will be upgraded to a “Notify Me!” system, which people need to sign-up online, as they do for notifications about public meetings.

While town officials work to identify potential emergencies in advance and even let people know about a road closure that’s not necessarily an emergency, but, for example may be a roadway closed for repairs, the Notify Me! system can provide alerts using the Town website.

Chief Read said the vehicle he has in mind for driving through flooded areas could cost as much as $100,000, for which he hopes there might be grant money available next year.

The chief said he plans to hold meetings with neighborhood associations to alert the public to sign up on the town website through the Notify Me! system.