Pre landfall actions minimize loss of life
A major storm known as hurricane Sandy barrels up East Coast and is predicted to collide with two other storm systems to form “a perfect storm”. As Sandy reaches the conversion point with these two other storms, it becomes clear that it will make landfall in the most populated areas of the nation. Coastal areas of the Northeast including Philadelphia, New York City and New Jersey are in the direct path of the predicted landfall.
The aftermath of the storm is nothing short of devastation. The damage done in New York City alone rivals that of September 11, 2001. Yet the loss of life remains minimal because of actions taken by local government officials prior to the storm making landfall.
Good decisions and actions were made possible in the pre-storm phase because of solid predictive evidence and what I’ll call “techno-intel” - the ability to rely on multiple pieces of technology to provide situational awareness. Local government officials including Mayor Bloomberg from New York City and Mayor Christie from New Jersey were on the same page and delivered a consistent message to the public. Unlike other natural disaster situations, these officials listened to the predictions and took appropriate, measured action in the pre-landfall phase that included emergency declarations and realistic public information. These pre-landfall declarations allowed access to resources to be pre-positioned ahead of the storm, activation of response teams, and access to funding streams. These actions will be proven to have saved lives.
Perhaps one of the most important pre-landfall actions of the hurricane Sandy event was a consistent nature of the warnings given by the local government officials. I believe that because these messages were consistent, clear (blunt), and described the actions to be taken by the population, the loss of life has been kept to minimum.
Another key factor in the storm response is the protection of infrastructure. Mayor Bloomberg ordered mass transit shutdown well ahead of the landfall hurricane Sandy. This action reinforced to the public evacuation orders must be followed within a given period of time and allowed for vehicles such as buses and subway trains to be sheltered and serviced. Getting mass transportation vehicles to shelters where they could be prepared for a return to service after the storm would allow them to be used in the recovery phase.
As I write this the recovery from hurricane Sandy is just beginning. There has been loss of life and the physical damage has yet to be fully assessed.
Local government officials have listened to the experts and taken an all hazards approach to preparedness with good planning and execution. As of today it seems the residual impact from this “super storm” will be contained to an absolute minimum.