BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — With lake-effect snow looming in the long-range forecast, the City of Buffalo’s emergency services and fleet managers are now on the job. Even though they’ve only been in these roles for a few days, they say they’re ready for what Mother Nature throws at Western New York this winter.
The city council called for these two positions to be filled in January, just weeks after the deadly December Blizzard. Now, ten months later, Thomas Luby and James Cross say they’ve hit the ground running planning for the winter.
Luby, the city’s emergency services manager, worked for the New York City Fire Department for three decades, and has emergency management experience with the Department of Homeland Security and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.
“Even though it’s [New York City], when it gets hit it gets hit pretty bad,” Luby said of his experience. “You can mesh both points together and bring the best practice or lessons learned from both sides.”
Role of the emergency services manager
He says his role will be coordinating emergency response between first responders and other city departments to a variety of situations, including snow storms. He also will organize different training sessions and help create emergency plans for the different departments.
During a storm, Luby says he will be activating the emergency operations center, holding meetings with first responders and creating incident response objectives for the storm.
“The incident objectives will drive the incident from response all the way to resumption of services. Through the incidents themselves, there may or may not be unique circumstances where we are going to have to combine resources from the various groups, where we will combine a task force or strike team to better accommodate and give a better approach to that issue until it is resolved,” Luby said.
He added he will be hosting conference calls with city leaders to ensure departments are responding appropriately and he will be in coordination with neighboring towns and the county.
After the December Blizzard and significant lake-effect storm last November, the city issued reports, outlining the details of the response and lessons learned. Luby says he has gone through most of those reports and wants to meet with department leaders to understand the specifics of what went right and wrong.
“Coordination is really key. You’re juggling a lot of chainsaws simultaneously and other things are coming in. Very stressful not only for you but all the other team members,” Luby added.
Fleet manager will be ‘teammate’
Cross, the city’s fleet manager, is a Buffalo native and has prior experience with Monro Tire and AAA. He says he has significant experience in vehicle upkeep and also leadership training to be able to work with the various departments in the city. He says his first goal is to assess the fleet and read through the maintenance records. Then, he says he will evaluate what additional gear is needed.
“I want to get an accurate inventory of the vehicles that are in the city of Buffalo. Once I do that, I plan on looking at things that need to be replaced. Looking at things that need to be bought and continuing the preventative maintenance schedule that the city already has in place for the vehicles that we are using,” Cross said.
During a storm, he says he will serve as a right hand to the emergency services manager making sure the vehicles are in position to help in the hardest hit areas.
“I’ll be coordinating the use of the vehicles, making sure the vehicles are in working order, coordinating with Mr. Luby. Basically just being there as a teammate to make sure we have vehicles to take care of the weather,” Cross said.
Both managers say they are ready for the winter season, despite only being on the job a few days.
“We’ve purchased new vehicles, we’ve maintenanced the vehicles that need to be maintenanced. I know we are going to be prepared for whatever weather comes our way,” Cross said.
As for the lake-effect chance during Thanksgiving, several city officials say they are monitoring it closely, but it is too early to make an official assessment of where the storm might land. They will know more next week and will continue updating residents via traditional media, social media, and BuffAlerts. You can view the latest 4Warn Forecast here.
Tara Lynch is a Buffalo native and Emmy-nominated reporter who joined the News 4 team in 2022. She previously worked at WETM in Elmira, N.Y., a sister station of News 4. You can follow Tara on Facebook and Twitter and find more of her work here.