All eyes have been on the east coast this week as Tropical Storm Sandy made its way up the eastern seaboard late Monday evening. Effects of the storm have been seen across several states with more than 8.1 million homes and businesses reported to be without power, and there have been devastating stories of houses being demolished and even several deaths. However, New York and New Jersey were hit the worst, and President Obama issued federal emergency decrees for "major disasters" in both states.
According to ABC News, New York University Langone Medical Center evacuated over 200 patients, including its PICU and NICU patients, due to a power outage and failure of its backup generators. The story of babies being transported down flights of stairs with flashlights is a touching one, and it shows how the medical community with the help of emergency personnel came together to help these patients. As Fred Rogers (a.k.a. Mr. Rogers) once said, “when I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” The medical community has the ability to save lives daily, but it is times like these when true heroes are born.
In another area of New York, Smadar Kort, MD, FACC, governor of the ACC’s Downstate New York Chapter tells us, “we were lucky here at Stony Brook University Medical Center. We lost power for only half an hour, at which point power was supplied by generators. Other hospitals in Suffolk County of Long Island lost power and therefore had to transfer patients, mainly to our facility. We had canceled all elective procedures and outpatient care so all our efforts were concentrated on caring for the patients in the hospital, some of them transferred from other hospitals, and many of them stayed longer than anticipated simply because they had no safe place to go to. In preparation for the storm, we discharged anyone who could have been safely discharged and created space for transfers from other hospitals. We still don't have power in the vicinity of the hospital, and the police had been very instrumental in directing traffic in the area. Talking to my colleagues in other institutions, many of them were required to help evacuate patients to ensure their safety, so I am happy and grateful that here we were able to do what we are trained for and like to do, which is taking care of patients.”
We also saw the effects of social media and technology come into play during the storm as government officials and agencies, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency, urged people to let their friends and family know they were safe via social media or text message, rather than phone call. Social media also helped disseminate tips and information about how to prepare for a storm, and what to do during a storm, and Google even created an interactive map that allowed people to track the storm and pointed people to the nearest shelter. However, we also saw the vulnerability of social media and how false information can quickly go viral. It underscores the need to be mindful of sources and to be aware of what you put out on social media channels.
Now that the storm has passed, I hope all of my ACC colleagues on the east coast are safe and quickly recover from the damage from the storm.