Some Thoughts On Sandy

I wanted to take a moment to thank my family, friends, employer, colleagues and staff in my building for their concern and offers of support in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. I was very lucky in that I live in the Flatiron neighborhood of Manhattan and was far away from the flooding; though I lost power, running water and sanitation in my apartment and office. I was able to get out of the city on one of the few buses leaving town yesterday afternoon and am now safe and sound in Boston.

Having no power and being forced to conserve my cell phone battery gave me lots of time to reflect on the events of the last few days. I thought I’d post some of my thoughts here:

  1. Serious weather events really are local. You don’t truly appreciate the carnage and impact on those affected until you see it up close.
  2. It really, really troubled me that NYC’s 911 system was receiving 10,000 calls every 30 minutes following the power outage: 1.) because there are so many morons calling 911 for non-emergencies and 2.) because there isn't any effective way to triage those 911 calls so people with life and death emergencies had to wait on hold. I've been thinking about ways that those calls could be triaged and I think there’s a good startup opportunity here – given the vast amount of information that our cell phone and email providers have on us there should be some intelligent (and profitable) ways to solve this problem.
  3. Just after the power went out in New York, police cars turned on their blue flashing lights and slowly circled around the impacted streets. I saw a police car go by my apartment literally every three or four minutes. This was a smart move to give people a safe feeling and I’m sure it reduced any potential looting or other crime.
  4. Twitter is incredibly useful during a crisis.
  5. For the most part, people don’t need to evacuate their homes to avoid the hurricane itself, they need to evacuate to avoid the miserable days following the hurricane when they’re stuck in their wet home with no power, running water, sanitation or cell phone coverage. I think a lot of people miss that point.
  6. Mayor Bloomberg did the right thing by asking President Obama not to come into New York City. The police resources that would've been required to facilitate his visit had much more important things to do.
  7. Mayor Bloomberg sent the wrong message by ringing the opening bell at the NYSE that the city was up and running and open for business. People from all over the New York, New Jersey and Connecticut areas hopped in their cars and drove into a city that was just at the beginning stages of a recovery and caused massive gridlock.  New York City should not be open for business when the entire subway system is down.
  8. Walking around Manhattan at night when the lights are out is really surreal.
  9. It’ll be interesting to see the impact Sandy has on the Presidential election. If people see the federal government making a positive impact it should help President Obama but if things still look bad on Tuesday it might help Governor Romney.
  10. Weather events like this are likely going to be much more commonplace going forward. I’ll save the climate change discussion and the role of government for another post. But citizens should use Sandy as an example of the importance of being ready when a disaster hits. Having an escape plan and an ample supply of non-perishable food, water, rain gear, flashlights, battery-powered radios and back up cell phone batteries is critical for everyone. Because even in a city of eight million people with all the conveniences that could be imagined, you just might find yourself on your own.

Finally, here are some helpful tips from FEMA on how to help the victims of the storm.

Image via Nameen.