This morning we had the opportunity to interview OEM Project Manager, Melissa Umberger. OEM recently changed their name in publications to "Emergency Management," in order to make it more immediately apparent what their role was as a city agency. Melissa spoke about the changing relationship between community boards, elected officials, and city agencies like OEM. In recent years, following a lawsuit by the Brooklyn Center for Independent Living, OEM has worked on making both their online and printed resources, as well as their shelters and evacuation pathways more accessible. She described the strategies they have borrowed from cities like Copenhagen and the uniqueness of New York City - geographically as well as demographically - that make it difficult to manage risk.
Most interestingly, she discussed the issues of representing risk. She explained the difficulty in differentiating the differences between storm surges and flood levels to the public, and of revealing enough information that people will be able to access the appropriate shelters and services in emergencies, but not too much that key infrastructural nodes or individual properties will be put at risk. She also mentioned efforts the OEM is making to be more transparent: by 2019, they'll have an online platform where people can view risk maps interactively (explore compounding risks, isolating areas, etc.).
You can read the full transcript of our interview here.