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March 2013 Column - Changes needed at state, federal levels concerning safety


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Erie County Legislator Edward Rath is pleased to announce that he is once again partnering with local schools for the annual Valentines for Veterans program. In its sixth year, the program has delivered thousands of cards to local veterans and...

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Happy New Year to all! I am honored to be starting a new term in the Erie County Legislature and look forward to continuing to build on the Republican-aligned Majority Caucus’s success from the past two years.

oneilj - Posted on 06 March 2013

Recently we were reminded that tragedy can strike without warning and affect any one of us.

On the fourth anniversary of the crash of Flight 3407, our minds went back to that awful night when an airplane carrying our friends and loved ones fell from the sky, striking a home in Clarence Center and killing 49 people on board as well as one of the homeowners.

Was this a tragic, unavoidable accident or was there another reason that flight didn’t make it safely to the Buffalo Niagara International Airport runway? After an investigation, the National Transportation Safety Board highlighted failures with airline training and piloting procedure as reasons for the crash.

After a diligent effort by the families of the victims, changes were included in the Airline Safety and Federal Aviation Administration Extension Act of 2010. Recently we learned that many of those policy changes have not been implemented. Lending my support to the necessity of these improvements, I sponsored a resolution calling on the FAA to implement the changes without further delay. The resolution (CLICK HERE TO READ THE RESOLUTION) received unanimous support at the Feb. 21 Erie County Legislature session and was forwarded to the FAA administrator.

The families are to be commended for taking on and winning a tough fight. We also commend the emergency responders who first had to deal with this tragedy. Just a few blocks from the crash scene is the Clarence Center Firehouse. Volunteers were first on the scene, taking action to protect neighboring houses and residents and handle this emergency as best they could. We expect our volunteer first responders to be there when we need them, whatever the call for help may be. That is why it is critical we are there for them — to provide the training and tools they need to best protect and help the community. That task has been more difficult due to the state’s failing to properly allocate each county’s share of $190 million collected annually through the statewide wireless 911 cellular surcharge. The purpose of this fee is to pay for E-911 technology upgrades in counties across New York.

In January, I sponsored a resolution (CLICK HERE TO READ THE RESOLUTION) that again brought attention to this issue that has been unresolved for several years. My resolution lent support to a bill in the State Senate calling for the local share to be raised from approximately 6 percent to 58 percent. The current, improper distribution is hampering public safety efforts in Erie County. Sen. Mike Ranzenhofer is one of the bill’s co-sponsors, and I thank him for his efforts to increase the amount of funds shared with local governments.

In Erie County we still have communities whose 911 systems have not been upgraded. Receiving the appropriate level of funding, Erie County could finalize a countywide upgrade to help all first responders more accurately and quickly identify the location of the victim as well as obtain information about the emergency.

While accidents and tragedies are unavoidable at times, it is critical that we as a community are best prepared to handle them should they occur.