Hurricane Sandy: Lessons Learned from the Natural Disaster

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There are always going to be improvements needed to be made when dealing with a chaotic event. The lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina better equipped the US to deal with another catastrophic Hurricane like Sandy. During Hurricane Sandy many government agencies and private sectors were able to collaborate and work together better through the disaster. All though there were still downfalls when it comes to preparation and readiness across the spectrum, many lives were saved because our country had plans in place for when another Hurricane would hit the US. Natural disasters will never be stopped but their destruction can be mitigated if the right preparation, planning, and execution are taken.

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Even though the US was more prepared and proactive in dealing with Hurricane Sandy, there were still difficult lessons learned from this natural disaster. Sandy had a huge effect on the medical facilities and the health care system. Medical facilities were unable to ensure continuity of operations in the aftermath of Sandy and their facilities were not capable of withstanding the catastrophic flooding (Powell, Hanfling, Gostin, 2012).

On January 29, 2013, Obama signed the Sandy Recovery Impact Act of 2013. The bill provided more than $50 billion in aid to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (Purdy, 2013). According to FEMA, “the passage of SRIA represents the most significant legislative change to the FEMA substantive authorities since the enactment of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act” (2015). This law was established to provide new procedures designed to improve the efficiency and quality of disaster assistance, authorizing several significant changes to the way FEMA may deliver federal disaster assistance to survivors (FEMA, 2015).

Immediately after Hurricane Sandy more agencies came into action and provided services. The American Red Cross opened 171 shelters across 13 states, with thousands of volunteers. The US Department of Health and Human Services sent more than 500 personnel, including 9 Disaster Medical Assistance Team, to assist at medical shelters across the area (Manuel, 2013). Residents who had their homes destroyed from Sandy, were able to apply for assistance and seek information on alternative housing. FEMA provided this service in 68 Disaster Recovery Centers across Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey. FEMA also supplied more than a million liters of water and more than a million shelf-ready meals to be distributed to those in need (Manuel, 2013).

Countless lives were saved due to astute preparations in advance of the storm. Many of the East coast states declared a state of emergency, days prior to Sandy making landfall, ordering residents to evacuate. 6,700 National Guard were activated to assist the governors of the states affected by Hurricane Sandy (CNN, 2017). Hospitals evacuated critical patients, most fragile patients, and premature infants to other hospitals on dry ground (Powell, Hanfling, Gostin, 2012). The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) deployed Incident Management Assistance Teams to coordinate federal resources to support the states. The US Coast Guard placed search and rescue teams along the coast. Nuclear plants were being continuously monitored by The Nuclear Regulatory Commission, prior to, during, and after Hurricane Sandy (Manuel, 2013). Many steps and actions were taken before Hurricane Sandy struck land and continued throughout the entire storm.

Hurricane Sandy not only took many lives but left an outcome of destruction and issues. Over hundreds of thousands of homes were destroyed or damaged from the high winds and flooding. Loss of power presented a distinct threat across the affected areas. Sandy left 8.5 million people in 21 states without electricity (Manuel, 2013). According to Manuel, “This loss of power, coupled with the absence or flooding-related failure of backup generators, translated to the shutdown of heating systems, life support, and other technologies that were vital to people’s survival” (2013). Wastewater treatment plants, and drinking water facilities were also left damaged and without power in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy (BRZOZOWSKI, 2013). This posed a major health concerns due to the threat of contaminated flood waters entering ground water aquifers, pipes, and wells that supply drinking water (Force, 2013).

On October 29th, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall at Atlantic City, New Jersey. To this day, it is the largest Atlantic hurricane to hit the United States, recorded at 1,100 miles wide, with a death toll of a 159 (Purdy, 2013). It was only seven days from when Sandy developed into a tropical storm in the Caribbean Sea, to approaching US land as a Category 2 storm, then weakening to a post-tropical cyclone before making landfall along the coast of southern New Jersey (CNN, 2017). Eight states were declared disaster areas, with the costal communities in the Mid-Atlantic hit the hardest by the hurricane. Majority of the deaths that resulted from Sandy were caused by falling trees and people drowning in a storm surge (Purdy, 2013).

Natural disasters are catastrophic events that we will never be able to control or stop from happening, but with all the technological advances, we are able to better predict when they will occur. Therefore, our country is able to better prepare the states and citizens for the disaster. Even though, the US has overcome catastrophic events and has learned lessons from each one, the US is continuing to be better prepared for any and all-natural disasters.

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