Before we lay our heads down for a long winter's nap, and settle into complacency about the events and affects of Sandy, let us look forward while it is fresh on our minds and take the necessary steps that will avert catastrophic loss of life, if we should receive a harder blow than that of a Category 1.
A proposal has been submitted to City Council members Jumaane Williams and Rhoda Jacobs outlining a plan to prevent the loss of life of hundreds, if not thousands of individuals in high rise apartment buildings, where there is no water once power is shut off. If we are hit with a worse storm than Sandy in the future and high rise buildings are surrounded by water, it will just be a matter of time before people start dying, because rescue workers will not be able to get to all of those trapped in high rises in time.
This proposal will not only save lives but also millions of dollars in rescue efforts by creating In-House Water/Relief Shelters in high rise buildings. As stated above one of the most vulnerable and aggregate populations in New York are those in high rise apartment buildings, since they require water to be pumped to floors above 6. And we have already seen in the case with Sandy, thousands of people were left without any drinking water or water for basic hygiene in these apartment buildings once they lost electricity, consequentially many suffered as a result, and in a worse case scenario/storm many will die without water, when countless buildings are surrounded by water and rescue services are so strained that getting to the survivors will become a hard choice of deciding who to save.
The proposal simply consists of turning the sixth floor of high rise buildings into In -House Water/Relief Shelters. These shelters would have flowing water (as water does not have to pumped up to the 6th Floor; natural water pressure already does this), there would be an emergency power generator that would heat the floor if required, they would have showers, bathrooms, washing machines and dryers, cooking facilities and refrigeration and quite possibly this same generator could even power the elevator. The residents in these retrofitted buildings would come down to this floor to get water, use the facilities, get warm, recharge their phones, laptops and batteries. Also, emergency food rations can be stored here as well. These In-House Water/Relief Shelters would also be outfitted with communication to the outside world so that rescue teams can determine their needs and keep the residents informed. This way, once electricity is gone there will be a clear and efficient manner of communication.
Each building would have volunteer Water/Relief Shelter Captains on each floor that will be responsible for being trained in the use of communications and helping in maintaining the facility.
The poorest individuals in public housing should be the first to receive the retrofitting because they have the least personal resources to mitigate a worse case scenario. Individuals on the 6th floor can be relocated to other apartments within the building, and corporate sponsors should be sought to pay for the 6th floor renovations.
As an aside emergency motion sensor battery operated lights need to be installed in the halls and staircases of these buildings as well.
These Water/Relief Shelters should be standard for all new construction and retrofitting of older units should be mandatory within the next three years.
Having these In-House Water/Relief Shelters would relieve a strain on city shelters that had already been stressed during Sandy, and it is very clear that a worse storm would absolutely overwhelm these services, and many will be left unattended. There won't be the need for people to leave their homes and they will still be able to maintain their health better than city shelters, which can very quickly become breeding grounds of disease without appropriate bathing facilities. Having the cooking facilities in the In-House Water/Relief Shelters also allows residents to continue to cook their fresh food, even if the gas is turned off, which will allow them to maintain their health and well being for a longer period of time. The fact that people can come down recharge batteries will keep them out of the dark. If Wi-Fi were incorporated you could potentially have some residents work from this shelter, which would have a positive impact to the economy. Also rescue workers can be more efficient in delivering their services to the most needy, while this population can hold it's own.
The finances resulting from the loss of rent would be split with a small surcharge that is paid by the remaining renters into a Home Owner's insurance fund as well as a subsidity from State and Federal funds. In public housing the residents would pay no surcharge.
The plan is simple and requires nothing extraordinary other than apartment renovations, and the will, to think ahead of the storm that most certainly will be coming in our future. It can only benefit us to trade our dynamic of being a reactive society and start to be a proactive one, that adjusts with the new world of climate change as it has been presented to us.
If you agree with this proposal, contact your local officials let them know how you feel.