MIDLAND BEACH — New York's 2016 hurricane season started Wednesday — and the city marked it by installing new signs helping residents prepare for the next storm.
The city's Office of Emergency Management installed the city's first "High Water Mark" sign — which shows how high the storm surge reached during Hurricane Sandy — in Midland Beach and updated evacuation route signs around Staten Island to help people find higher ground.
"Since we are now officially in hurricane season, every one should make sure that they are ready for the storm," said Joseph Esposito, OEM commissioner.
The city installed 57 new evacuation route signs around the borough that, unlike previous ones that simply told people where to go in case of a storm, points drivers in the direction of higher ground and shows if they're still in a flood zone, Esposito said.
"Most people in the city, especially on Staten Island, if you're going to evacuate you know where you're going," Esposito said.
"You know the best route to get to that location. What these signs are for is to show that you're still in harm's way. If you see these signs, you better keep going until you don't see the signs anymore."
The city partnered with FEMA to place the first of 20 "High Water Mark" signs inside the Midland Beach Splaza that show how high the storm surge reached in the park during Sandy.
"We want everybody to remember what it was like, so we don't forget, we never forget, the devastation that occurred," said Michael Moriarty, director of FEMA Region II's mitigation division.
"[The signs] make sure that when residents come to the beach years from now, they're still going to remember that the water was this high during Sandy and that we have to take proper precautions."
The signs are part of a FEMA pilot program around the country that aims to raise awareness about flood zones. The OEM plans to place the others in neighborhoods hit hard by Sandy around the city by the end of the year.
Esposito urged residents to stay safe if a storm hits the city by knowing which flood zone they live in, developing a plan and packing a go bag before the storm.
The city plans to hand out 100,000 pamphlets in high-risk neighborhoods around the city.
Since many of the deaths during Sandy were caused by people who didn't evacuate their homes, Esposito said the OEM has partnered with the NYPD to create a system that will send officers to canvass the neighborhood and warn residents to flee before the next storm.
"It will be a pre-evacuation canvass where they'll knock on the door and tell people, 'Hey, you are in a zone that's been ordered evacuated,'" Esposito said.
"We're going to highlight that the majority of people that died in Sandy would not have died if they evacuated."