Last week, citizens across the northeastern seaboard and inland took a major blow when their communities were hit by Hurricane Sandy. Even though Sandy was a Class 1 hurricane, it cut across a broad swath, and numerous governors declared a state of emergency as a part of their disaster response and recovery plans.
Thousands of citizens are now left homeless, potentially jobless, and millions are still powerless. Gas lines are long; some communities have had basic services restored while others continue to wait and ask, “When will they get to my neighborhood?” Comparisons to Katrina are popping up.
Unlike Katrina, several things were done right in the case of Sandy. First of all, the governors of the affected states called a state of emergency. They proceeded with their evacuation plans for those who chose to leave, and the governors notified the White House that a national disaster proclamation was needed, and Obama granted the requests.
In preparation for Sandy's wrath, pumps, generators, etc. were brought in. The cities gave the evacuation orders and worked with the state to secure resources, then the state worked with the federal government to prepare for impact. Once Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, there was not a lot that could be done but wait it out, hope for the best, fearing the worst, and wait for damage assessment.
When Sandy traveled inland, local emergency response crews were able to get a more complete picture of the total devastation, and reported back to the mayor’s office (typically, a dedicated disaster relief coordinator is on staff). From there, they reported the needs, and the local Guard servicemembers started the hard work of delivering the basics to those who need them most.
While local coordinators have been busy getting out the basic necessities, the governors' offices have been working with the national command center to bring in needed supplies. This includes working with Guard units in other states.
PolicyMic is fortunate to have our own expert in the logistics realm of inter-coordination between guard units. In a thread on another post, Douglas Goodman provided a great overview of how the Guard coordinates relief and how politicization of a disaster impedes the ability of the numerous agencies working in tandem to bring relief to the residents of New York and New Jersey:
“During mission execution, political football is not good. If supply availability is not an issue, the folks on the ground will figure a way to get the stuff to where it needs to go as quickly as possible. It's amazing how smart and innovative these troops are, one advantage of being deployed to a war zone. If availability is an issue then it is up to the folks higher up to get that resolved without arguing or trying to play one-upsmanship. When I was at the Bureau, the guy two cubicles away was responsible for coordinating assistance from other states' Guard. I'm sure whoever is at that desk has been working non-stop.”
The challenge with Sandy is the breadth of her wrath. Sandy’s impact forced the cancellation of over 500 flights in Chicago alone. This, combined with the damage in the states affected, slows down the deployment of resources: human, food, shelter, power restoration, etc.
For an update on the situation right now, see here.