Remembering Sandy

In researching information for a grant we’re writing, I had the opportunity to review articles and documentation from the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.  Just two days later, the one that sticks out in my mind is the “winners and losers” in the communications arena and why.

When presenting, I often have referred to the “perception is reality” idea and the fact that people will judge whether the response was well done or an #epicfail based on what they knew throughout the event.  But never was it more clear than in re-reading this article.

Mayor Bloomberg (NY) and Governor Cuomo (NY) were given D grades.  Why?  Mayor Bloomberg did not immediately cancel the NYC Marathon, providing a complete disconnect between the reality on the ground for so many who were homeless and without food compared to racers and organizers who filled hotels and ate lavishly.  Governor Cuomo bloviated that he would hold utility companies accountable for the timeliness of restoring power, but the public didn’t perceive that he was doing anything to make that happen.  A few tweets or Facebook postings about meetings, actions, and results wherever they occured could have changed that perception (which became a reality).

While weather forecasters spent weeks telling residents the magnitude of the storm, it seemed to catch political leaders and disaster services off-guard.  Municipalities that hosted their own websites lost the capability of communicating via that channel when their buildings were flooded or power went out and generating capacity ran dry.  Those who used “the big boys” like Facebook, Twitter, Google and major hosting sites in another part of the country were able to keep lines of communcation open.

A lesson indeed, but one that is haunting as nearly four years later, many local governments are still resistent to using social media as a communications vehicle.  Many are not taking advantage of free web tools to get even one web page up with contact information and a Facebook feed.  It truly isn’t a matter of “if”, but “when” something will happen.  Will your jurisdiction be prepared?

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