The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy in the United States is a painful chapter in American history. It has caused an enormous loss of life, and the aftermath will go on for many years to come. In the immediate aftermath, people were trying to come to terms with the death and devastation, but the damage was extensive and long-lasting. As news of the tragedy spread, images of the destruction wreaked by Hurricane Sandy flooded the media. The story, though tragic, was a familiar one–a story of loss, grief, hope, and eventually recovery.
Many events on the timeline of Hurricane Sandy have been covered extensively. However, there are still elements of the story that are not known or have yet to be revealed. The most immediate question is how did such a massive storm hit? Did it happen quickly and easily? And were warnings of a possible Hurricane Storm preparedness failure ignored?
There are many events that took place that could have foretold the impending destruction that Hurricane Sandy brought to the East Coast. But because no real official timeline has been released, we are left to speculate and make our own timeline based upon what we know. A number of experts have compiled potential Hurricane Sandy timeline events based upon the reports of others, as well as credible news sources. These include experts from the National Weather Service (NWS), the Army Corps of Engineers, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). They have documented and presented their findings in peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters.
When assessing the damage, experts have divided the timeline into two major sections. Those looking at the preparation and response efforts of local and state emergency responders see a pattern of risk. Those focused on the public’s safety see the impact of Hurricane Sandy as a warning of climate change and the changing of the risks associated with living near water. The latter segment of the timeline will cover the events leading up to, during, and following the devastating storm. These reports will provide updates on flood insurance claims, recovery efforts, infrastructure restoration, insurance reform, public education and awareness, and environmental impacts.
The preparation stage of the timeline is comprised of those events leading up to the storm. Experts describe these as the “spillover” or “catastrophic” stages. This is the stage when governmental agencies, media, and citizen groups must come together to assess the scope of the damage, formulate a plan, and share information to make better cost management decisions.
Public officials, private citizens, media outlets, and members of the public are briefed and provide updates on the status of power outages, fallen trees, damaged electrical infrastructure, structural integrity, and potential health hazards. Preparing a timeline to handle recovery can be a challenge. Often, victims are reluctant to offer information for fear of further backlash, stigma, or retribution. After all, many of those who suffered loss, trauma, or loss cannot identify the source of the loss until it has been announced, often by the media, in the aftermath of catastrophic events.
A collaborative effort is needed to coordinate an accurate timeline. The key is to first identify the events leading up to the damage, then organize the information and determine how the public can partner with each other to address the loss. In some cases, victims, agencies, and/or affected businesses may need assistance in the preparation of a public statement, such as developing a template for a public announcement, writing the release, and distributing it. In other cases, there may be a need for experts in certain areas. In either case, a timeline is a crucial component in addressing disaster recovery.
When disasters occur, it is important for people to be prepared. One way that they can do that is through the accurate documentation of the events that occurred. In situations where public safety is compromised or lives are at risk, a timeline may be the only tool that ensures accurate reporting. By ensuring accurate dates and times, people can ensure that accurate budgets and schedules are already established for the disaster’s impact on their organization. A timeline can serve as a tool for effective communication regarding recovery efforts, reducing stress and frustration, and creating accountability for those in positions of power.