“Times Herald-Record

Goshen – In the three months since Hurricane Katrina decimated Gulf states, killing hundreds, officials here have been working to incorporate lessons learned from that disaster into regional emergency planning closer to home.

Dominick Greene, deputy commissioner for emergency management, offered lawmakers examples yesterday.

“The evacuation plan is a living document,” Greene told members of the public safety and emergency services committee. “There are still lessons being learned.”

Immediately after the storm, New Orleans had difficulty with bus drivers and other emergency personnel abandoning their posts to “take care of family,” Greene said.

If a large-scale evacuation were to be ordered in the area ­- for example, caused by a release of radiation from the Indian Point nuclear power plant – Greene said orders would be given to assist first responders’ families quickly.

Other ideas incorporated into the county’s plan include keeping gas stations well-stocked to avoid fuel shortages; staggering evacuations to keep traffic moving on escape routes; and improving communication capabilities.

Holes do remain, but nonetheless, officials say Orange County residents are better off today than before Katrina hit.

“In emergency management,” commissioner Walter Koury said, “there is no plan that’s ever finished”