By HUNTER GEORGE, FEMA External Affairs, DR-4085-NY
All over New York, the whole community is responding to those who lost homes, cars, possessions and their sense of security after Hurricane Sandy swept over the region.
The Met Council distributed 170,000 pounds of food and prepared 85,000 meals. A rock climbing gym in Brooklyn became a staging ground for first responders. Taxicabs in New York are displaying disaster assistance information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
“New York is made up of neighborhoods,” said FEMA’s Federal Coordinating Officer Michael F. Byrne, a New Yorker himself. “Every neighborhood is distinctly different, with different traditions, dialects and sense of community.”
That sense of community, in this case, is greatly expanded. It involves FEMA, other federal, state and local agencies, the private sector, voluntary groups and faith-based organizations.
“FEMA is not the team,” Byrne said. “FEMA is part of a much larger team, one that represents every aspect of the community. Individuals, groups and government agencies all came together to respond and begin recovery. This disaster was so immense that it required a massive effort by thousands of people. Those people are still at work, and will be for a long time.”
Some examples of the team effort:
- Russian-speaking storm survivors in Brighton Beach and Coney Island came to FEMA disaster recovery centers to seek assistance and ended up volunteering to stay and translate for other Russian-speaking survivors.
- A woman lost her job and her basement apartment after the storm. She found another job as a caregiver and was sleeping on her clients’ couch. She came to a recovery center and was able to get transitional housing and legal assistance with the help of the American Red Cross, FEMA and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
- The American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division is operating a hotline (800-699-5636), coordinating with FEMA and the Legal Services Corporation, to provide information and help to Sandy survivors.
- Sandy survivors are being given priority for 2,500 vacant apartments by private landlords in New York City, under an agreement between property owners and government officials.
- The Humane Society of the United States partnered with the Nassau County Office of Emergency Management, Nassau County SPCA, the North Shore Animal League and the Pet Safe Coalition to care for nearly 300 pets daily in an emergency shelter on Long Island.
- More than 500 survivors with access and functional needs are being assisted by FEMA specialists. Some Disaster Recovery Centers are using iPads to help survivors with speech disability or hearing loss. The iPads have a Skype app that can provide video relay to help the survivor with the assistance process.
- The private sector displayed FEMA disaster assistance information on large screens at Times Square, Madison Square Garden, Radio City Music Hall, Lincoln Center and several movie theaters, increasing public awareness of disaster assistance information.
More than 500 voluntary organizations have participated in the effort, including NY Cares, NY Disaster Interfaith Services, National Latino Evangelical Coalition, American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Mennonite Disaster Services, among others.
Federal partners have involved FEMA, Small Business Administration, Department of Housing and Urban Development, Department of Transportation, Department of Defense, Department of Agriculture, Department of Homeland Security, General Services Administration, Department of Health and Human Services, Environmental Protection Agency, Department of Energy and Department of Justice, to name a few.
In many cases, a coordinated effort by several organizations is required to deliver assistance to people in need.
After the storm, a Five Towns family lost their home to fire, caused by a candle when the power was out. They registered with FEMA and were staying in an aunt’s living room on the floor. The wife gave birth and, with three other children, the family needed a place to stay. The father found an apartment but had no money because he was out of work.
A FEMA Community Relations team directed the family to a distribution center, where they received blankets, cots, baby formula, food and water. The FEMA team contacted a faith-based organization and a community center, both of which provided rent money. The family found an apartment and was being processed for FEMA assistance.
To join the whole community effort, FEMA encourages volunteers and donors to work directly with our nonprofit partners to ensure that survivors' needs are addressed in the most effective and efficient way. For online links to those organizations, visit: