Hurricane Sandy: Lessons in Disaster Preparation

Hurricane Sandy & Marblehead [Front Street 7]Hurricane Sandy’s path along the East Coast was one of incredible destruction. Although the storm was officially downgraded from hurricane to “superstorm” just before hitting the New Jersey shore, Sandy is predicted to have caused at least $20 billion in property damage. Ninety-four people lost their lives in the storm. As survivors piece their lives back together, the rest of us naturally wonder what we can learn from this horrific event. Hopefully, Sandy’s terror will spur all Americans to better prepare for emergencies.

Here are a few lessons the so-called “Frankenstorm” taught us:

Electrical outages can be widespread and long lasting.

Eight million people were left without power following Hurricane Sandy – indeed, many went without electricity or heat for several weeks! To comprehend why it took so much time to get the East Coast’s electrical system back online, it helps to understand that the nation’s electrical grid is set up as a series of branches off of substations. At each substation, the voltage streaming from power plants is converted to a usable form of electricity. Repairing electrical substations is difficult because the parts are expensive, spare parts are hard to come by and repairs are time-consuming. Salt-water flooding, as Sandy caused, is especially damaging to electrical substations. This is why repairing a local power line that’s been cut off by a fallen tree is much easier than fixing outages at the substation level.

Hurricane Sandy has taught that we cannot assume electrical systems will come back online quickly. Therefore, it’s imperative to select emergency kit items that will conserve energy. For instance, an LED emergency flashlight is a better choice than an incandescent light, for the simple reason that LEDs require less energy. An emergency LED light will work for far longer on the same set of batteries than its incandescent counterpart. Similarly, if your home is heated with electricity, it makes sense to have an alternative heat source arranged before disaster strikes, such as a back-up generator.

Replace antique infrastructure before storms hit.

Old, crumbling infrastructure will only fail more completely in a disaster. Therefore, government officials should prioritize infrastructure projects. American cities can follow London’s example of exceptional infrastructure disaster preparation. For instance, London has created a moveable flood barrier to hold back the Thames when it floods. Strengthening sewer, water and electrical systems can diminish the impact of future disasters.

Expect more frequent, more intense disasters.

Our oceans are becoming warmer. As ocean temperature rises, tropical winds are more likely to whip up into full-blown tempests. Experts tell us hurricane seasons are longer than they have ever been before. Furthermore, the world’s rivers are seeing more “hundred-year floods,” so even inland Americans will be seeing more emergency events. As disasters become more frequent, it’s especially important to keep an emergency LED flashlight and kit in your home, car and office.

In the end, each person probably has his or her own “takeaway” lessons from this emergency. LED light experts like us, for instance, obviously hope every American will make sure he or she has an LED emergency flashlight to weather the storm. Light is crucial during emergencies, not only for seeing one’s way to safety but also for its psychological impact. Light makes us feel safe. As Sandy’s trail is slowly sopped up, make sure you have the critical items your family needs to feel safe in a disaster.

 

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