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Hurricane Sandy reveals need for better planning and communication


November 14, 2012

[AP/Wide World Photos]
[AP/Wide World Photos]

The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has shown that the nation needs to be more prepared for emergencies, particularly when it comes to communications, Darren Hayes, a professor at Pace University in New York, writes for TheHill.com. In areas that lost power, some utility companies lacked alert systems, and cellphone communications were often scant. Radio reports were devoid of specifics about local communities, Hayes says.

Communications problems could have been mitigated with a more effective use of technology, he argues. The Long Island Power Authority reportedly was using a 25-year-old mainframe computer system that couldn’t track power outages, and its engineers were working with paper maps and highlighters. The company’s mobile-user website was inoperable for days. For problems like finding gasoline, official communications were often unhelpful, so New Yorkers turned to social media like Twitter and websites like GasBuddy.com.

Hayes argues for the introduction of county, state and possibly federal legislation that would spell out the reporting and communications requirements that utilities must follow during disasters. Power outages are inevitable, Hayes writes, “but poor planning and ineffective communication is inexcusable.” — Greg Beaubien



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