32 Comments on PoweRless

This has been one of the most horrible weeks in the history of the Northeast. The destruction caused by Hurricane/Superstorm Sandy is beyond anything we’ve seen before. More than 100 deaths, millions without power, thousands of homes lost or ruined, hours-long gas lines, and stories of trauma and tragedy have surrounded our lives since Monday night. We feel powerless, literally and figuratively.

There are also countless uplifting stories of neighbors helping neighbors and strangers helping strangers. We see the best in human nature come through in times like these. We also occasionally see the worst when looters seize on opportunity, when drivers battle for a place in line, and when the fortunate refuse to help those in need.

For the people in my industry, the power we do have is the power of words. Desperate, needy, angry people want to know when and how their problems will be resolved.  They demand to know what’s going on and when is help arriving. Public relations staffs and professional communicators from every involved agency and government are working hard at keeping an anxious citizenry informed. With their guidance, these PR professionals are feeding life-saving information to people through the media; the same PR people are making sure our elected leaders (i.e. Cuomo, Christie, Obama, Bloomberg, and state, county and town officials) are consistently reassuring the public that help is here and we’ll all get through this together. Yes, there already have been missteps and mistakes, but given the magnitude of this terrible situation, we’re seeing a tremendous effort by everyone involved, including by those whose job it is to tell us what’s happening. This is a crisis of epic proportions and there will be plenty of time to judge how well we all responded after it’s over–which can’t come a minute too soon.

P.S. I’ve made little secret that I’m supporting President Obama this election. For all his successes and despite his flaws, I see him as the obvious choice given his opponent’s lack of integrity and ever-shifting positions. Whether you or not you agree, please do your duty as an American and vote this Tuesday!

32 thoughts on “PoweRless

  1. publicrelationspro

    Hurricane Sandy was definitely one of the worst disasters the northeast has seen in quite some time and will not be fixed overnight. There have been problems from flooding to power outages, to people losing their homes to fires. One thing that can be said is that Obama did the right thing by pledging to do whatever he could to make sure that this matter was handled and resolved as soon as possible, bringing in the electricians and workers from all over the country to help rebuild the battered and heartbroken communities of New York, New Jersey and the upper east coast.

    ***typo***Whether you or not you agree, please do your duty as an American and vote this Tuesday!

  2. Kerry Kiddoo

    Being from North Carolina, hurricanes are no stranger to me. To this day, what I am still angry about is the lack of preparations and warnings given to the tri-state area. There were barely any broadcastings about what people should do to prepare. There were no “what to do’ “what not to do” news stories. That, I feel, is why people suffered so much from this storm. Back home, we all know what to do when this type of thing is coming our way because it has been preached to us since day 1. I find it extremely disappointing though that barely any broadcasting or advice were given to these people on what they should do to prepare themselves. Lots of destruction and damage could have been avoided if people had gotten the proper information. Even Hofstra, all they said to do was most stuff away from windows and call public safety if you need help. Great advice. I feel terrible for those who are still suffering, but it makes me extremely angry to know some of it could have been avoided. They could have always asked for advice from those who see this on a regular occasion.

  3. Amanda Brennan

    I’m not sure why I missed this post, but I’m angry I did. This hurricane was horrible and I didn’t even suffer half as bad as what had occurred to multiple people, family and friends that I know. Since my post is a little later than most on here, I can also point out the blizzard or whatever that was, that hit the northeast region shortly after. What I can say is that people came together in ways I have never seen before. Every single community pulled together to offer a shower, a place to sleep, my own neighbor hooked us up to his generator. The kindness of people never fails to amaze me in times of hardship.

    What I will say however, on the public relations end, is this: LIPA needs to go. The power of words are what people need to see. LIPA completely failed as a company throughout this whole thing and failed to communicate with it’s customers. It’s sad because they are a monopoly on this island and we had no choice but to deal with their bullshit throughout the whole thing. If anything should be taken away from the devastation is this: DOWN WITH LIPA. And people are great. The end.

  4. Kevin Alexander Tamerler

    It’s interesting to realize how precarious the modern world is. We need gasoline, refined from oil, imported from thousands of miles away; or our entire economy grinds to a halt. We need hundred of miles of uninterrupted wiring in place to have any semblance of normalcy. We think of ourselves as significantly ahead of hunter-gatherers, but we’re at best only a few policy and structural failures away from losing all our modern conveniences.

    I think the response to Sandy has ranged from the brilliant to the utterly failed, in retrospect. There have been relatively few deaths in total, no issue of actual hunger, and no significant number of people trapped for any period of time. In the short term, Government apppeared to respond well, being prepared to throw resources into it and prevent the early loss of life. But over the medium term, as issues turn less on saving lives and more on rebuilding infastructure and helping people to get back to work and normal life. LIPA has been infamously incapable of restoring power to affected Long Islanders (although I think we all know what those same Islanders would have said were they slapped with a rate increase for the purpose of hurricane preparedness). The gas shortages are increasingly getting in the way of an ordinarily functioning Long Island economy, people are unable to get gas or go to work without waiting in line for hours. Public opinion is increasingly turning sour on the authorities, and it’s interesting to wonder how this might have changed electoral opinions.

  5. Kellianne

    I think communicating with the society is very important; especially at a time like this. People demand answers and even if you can’t get the answers that they expect, it is essential that you make some sort of response. As far as Obama, I thought it was great to see him hugging Gov. Christie. It showed that at a time such as Hurricane Sandy, politics were pushed aside.

  6. Lauren Ciuzio

    Hurricane Sandy has by far been the worst experience in my life. My home received severe oil damage and we cannot live there for a while, and my Grandparents lost their finished basement. In addition, my family and I lost four cars. While all of that has been significantly stressful and upsetting, there are people a lot worse off. I am very grateful that my family and I are all safe. Once we are back on our feet, I would like to help others that lost everything.

    The only good thing about this hurricane is, everyone came together. Communities have been working 24 hours a day to give back everything that they can to their neighbors.

    I think public figures have been doing a great job as well. I love that Obama stopped his campaign, a week before election day and showed his concern. It was refreshing to see him put politics aside, and to contribute to this. I was disgusted that Romney made little effort, no wonder he lost! Other politicians such as Governor Cuomo, and Christie have been doing an amazing job as well getting New York and New Jersey back on their feet. I also think Hofstra did a great job keeping us informed, and accommodating us that have been affected. The only people I have an issue with are LIPA. Two weeks later my town is still without power, and they have been doing very little to keep us informed. It disgusts me that my Grandmother who is on oxygen is still out of the comfort of her home. LIPA has failed to meet our needs as consumers, and has failed to communicate as well. Cuomo either needs to put them out completely, or they need to change around their team completely.

  7. Anand Patel

    I am absolutely in love with the fact that even though Hurricane Sandy was a horrific disaster, it did indeed bring together the people of our great nation. From all social networks we saw a huge influx of aid needed and being given. Of course we had a nice little mini-vacation from it all during the storm but we were lucky. While we had fun, others were dying. There was some comic relief to it all with the Twitter feeds @hurricansandy and @afrankenstorm. If you havent seen them, please do. They’re hilarious. I’m so happy to see that people here at Hofstra are giving aid to those in need all around the area. Even during the storm, we all came together just to not have to weather the storm alone. I’m sure all of you have had the problem of having numerous family and friends contact you just to make sure you’re safe. That’s what really gets me. Such tragedy does indeed bring out the best in people even though we may be at our worst. It’s nice to be loved and there’s no better time to do so when people need it most.

  8. Christine Brazeau

    This has been such a tumultuous time for the northeast. There was so much destruction and devastation across the board. Being on Long Island we definitely felt the effects of the massive storm, and also the effects of PR from Hofstra about how to handle the weather. There was a constant update through different mediums to keep us informed. However, we are in an easier situation than everyone else who didn’t have people to inform them in the way we were. It was very difficult for the people who are completely on their own during this scary time. However, the efforts to reach out to people have been massive. Those higher up were addressing their constituents every day if they could, to make them feel more at ease and comfortable that things are going to change. This is the most important thing they could do because people just want to feel acknowledged.

  9. Kristin Mancuso

    The aftermath of Sandy has been absolutely devastating to people along the east coast. From Massachusetts to Virginia, the damage the Sandy has caused will last for years to come. Whether it was from losing power for an hour to losing your house, everyone can say that they have been personally if not emotionally impacted by this hurricane. Despite this, the overwhelming amount of help and dedication that has been offered to helping victims is truly heartwarming. On our own campus I have witnessed acts of kindness and community that are truly amazing despite this tough time. Taking this into consideration, I am very appreciative of Hofstra for keeping us safe and informed during the storm.
    One devastating thing to see on the news was the amount of people who ignored the mandatory evacuation orders. My mother’s friend failed to leave and nearly lost her home and life because of it. In the future, I hope that we can eliminate this invincibility and over-confidence, which leads us to make unsafe decisions.
    Although I am not the biggest Obama supporter, his outreach and concern for the victims of this disaster truly warmed my heart and made me look at him in a new light as opposed to Romney who mentioned cutting funds for natural disasters. In addition to this, it showed great maturity and respect that Romney-supporter Governor Christie and Obama could come together despite their political differences.
    My only hope is that this sense of community will be long-lasting because it devastates me that it takes a disaster to happen in order for this to happen.

  10. Kellie Sahagian

    I agree that it was great seeing Obama helping, even during his campaign. I like how he cared about what was happening in the country more than his campaign. I found myself annoyed that Romney continued his campaign. My heart goes out to everyone who was affected by Hurricane Sandy. I don’t think anyone knew how hard the hurricane was going to hit, which was definitely scary.

  11. Hillary Alexandre

    I don’t think that anyone fathomed how intense and devastating Hurricane Sandy was going to be. The news of people that have lost homes are saddening. I was thankfully one of the lucky ones to get through the storm without any major damage and no power outage. I agree with Jenny Zheng that Obama’s actions to make the affected people feel like there is help on its way was a good decision as opposed to Romney’s action of ignoring the situation and continuing on with his campaigns. He could have at least stopped at one of the affected areas and shown compassion. But he showed his true colors by only caring about winning as many votes as possible.

  12. Nicole Chiarella

    Being completely out of touch with the world was scary but nice at the same time. I was without power for a week and had little access to the internet. During the storm I kept myself updated as much as I could through twitter as they were constantly posting about weather updates. I don’t think anyone expected this storm to be as devastating as it was and we continue to see struggles throughout the boroughs and the counties. My heart goes out to all who have lost loved ones, homes and businesses during the storm. It is important that we support each other in a time of need.

    Everyone demands answers because of their frustrations and loss but there is only so much information that can be given. There is no doubt that public relations plays a large part in getting information out. It is necessary that accurate information is being given to Governor Chris Christie and Andrew Cuomo because these are the people who we are seeking the answers from. I do not think that there will be much patience with people who have been hit the hardest which we have already seen. They want answers and they want them now. Let’s hope that there will be answers soon and pray for all those in need during this time of need.

  13. Jenny Rowe

    I thought it was great seeing Obama out here supporting those who were affected by Hurricane Sandy, not just because it showed compassion but I think it was also great for his campaign. Social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr made it seem like he stopped everything he was doing with the election to figure out a way to help out.

  14. passportstories

    I agree with Rachel. It was really encouraging to see Governor Christie and President Obama working together in this tragedy, despite political affiliation. I believe that this is part of the reason that the United States is currently enduring so many problems. It is often so hard to agree on something because of the two-party system. Too many people are stuck in this concept of a two-party system and political affiliation to take the time to listen to what the opposite candidate is saying or doing. I really gained a lot of respect for Obama because of how he handled hurricane Sandy, something I did not have before the storm. In the wake of Sandy, this idea of working together needs to be in the forefront of the communities affected by the storm, as well as the surrounding areas. It is really sad that in politics, individuals can only work together during a time of disaster. Imagine what our country would be like if this happened more often; wishful thinking I guess!

    – Molly Sestak

  15. Jenny Zheng

    I was furious that Romney was still campaigning during HurricaneSandy. I think this earned Obama major brownie points because now, this country sees that he can put aside winning a race, and deal with what is most important. I believe Romney’s tactlessness will cost him the election and swing states. It speaks to Obama’s character that he is there for the people during these hard times. Even Governor Christie, who is a supporter of Romney (who, according to MSN News, will still be voting for him) applauded Obama for his involvement with Hurricane Sandy. I have great respect for Christie putting aside politics to say that the “storm is bigger than the election.” It’s just a little sad that it takes a life threatening storm for some people to put aside their differences, and disappointing that Romney had the audacity to continue campaigning.

  16. Michelle Shelorke

    This week has truly been unreal. Thankfully, my family and I are all safe with little damage, however I know plenty of people that were greatly affected by this storm. It was a wild week filled with uncertainties, yet the media, government officials and LIPA have been as open as they could be with the public, which from a PR perspective means they are doing it right. Leaving open channels of communication has been incredible for all the surrounding areas, and those helping each other out does prove your point that people are doing what they need to in desperate times. I never thought something of this magnitude would occur to Long Island, but it proves we have to be prepared for anything. As far as voting goes, I am 110% supporting Obama. He has shown he cares for recovery in our area while Romney has remained ignorant and selfish in my opinion.

  17. Lauren Someck

    I still can’t believe it has been over a week now and there are still so many people left without power. The devastating part about this hurricane is that loosing power was the least of everyone’s worries. People’s lives were turned upside down, their homes were taken away and are now forced to start over. I completely agree with what you mentioned in your post: “We see the best in human nature come through in times like these” because it is true, there have been thousands of people offering their generous time and efforts to help those in need. While on the other hand, there have been also a high number of crime rates going up due to robberies and looting. I also think this quote refers to the attitudes we choose to try to maintain during this tough time. Sometimes I catch my self complaining about how hard it is to deal without the heat, hot showers and electricity. I immediately feel guilty because there are thousands of people who have been hit with the storm and have lost everything.

    I believe that the people in the New York/New Jersey area (including me) felt invincible to these types of natural disasters for a very long time. We have watched other parts of the world battle horrific storms like New Orleans. I think it was hard for people to wrap their heads around the idea that we could also be in danger of such uncontrollable conditions. This may be a reason some people were less prepared for Sandy. I heard many people before the storm undermine its power and chose not to believe in how serious the storm would be.

    I have been listening to the radio for the most part this past week and once again I am proud to say Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been a fantastic leader in times of crisis. I am a huge fan of his and I appreciate his great efforts and loyalty to New York City. I find him to be one of the most ethical leaders and I feel safe when I hear him reassuring New York that things will be okay.

  18. Kerri Sheehan

    My hometown on the coast of Rhode Island was nearly destroyed in Hurricane Sandy. Before the storm hit I could not fathom the immense damage that it would do to the coastline. Being at school the only damage that affected me was the loss of power and wifi/cable (still hasn’t come back yet!). I think President Obama is doing a good job making sure that the Northeast recovers.

    Already voted for Obama!

  19. Michelle Soslowitz

    This past week has been so hard for everyone, and i think that government officials, Hofstra, and others have been doing a good job with telling the public what they need. I was watching the news (before i lost cable) and listening to the radio, and I was thinking each time of how the spokesperson was talking and handling the situation. Everytime I heard a rep from LIPA or Red Cross discussing how they were going to help out. Each time they spoke I was able to pick out their key messages, their apologies to the public, and their reassurance that everything was being taken care of. I know how hard it must be for all of these people to do their jobs, especially when there is so much damage and destruction and issues that need to be done, but I think they are doing their best. No one excpeted this storm to turn out the way they did and they weren’t prepared. Now I think that everyone will have a better crisis communication plan set up, and figure out how to do what they can as fast as possible. Government officials such as Cuomo and Christie, and even President Obama have been very reassuring and helpful to everyone. It’s tough because they are focusing on the election as well, but they are still able to help out the people. I know Hofstra has also done a good job of staying in touch with the community. I have friends who were able to receive temporary housing from the school because they lost their homes and cars. The school has been great helping out with everything and sending out emails to keep students aware of what is happening. Hopefully people will get the help they need to get homes, food, power, gas, etc.

  20. Lauren Means

    I find it interesting that Romney supporters are focusing on Romney’s campaign instead of the disaster recovery. Romney’s rally on Tuesday night was quickly turned into a hurricane relief rally, though Romney’s speech hardly changed and the only difference was the invitation for participants to bring canned goods. I read an article the other day defending Romney’s choice to go back on the campaign trail while Obama was helping states recover. The author said that Obama has had four years to campaign, and that Romney needs this extra time. It seems that Romney’s PR team feels this way too, and they don’t feel that they have to bother with pretenses. Romney is covering multiple states a day before the election, and his PR team is promoting his rallying efforts, not his disaster relief efforts.

  21. Jon Fisco

    It’s been pretty unreal the past few days. Parts of my town are completely destroyed, others are barely standing, and still others are fine. But it’s been encouraging to hear government officials and LIPA officials talk about what’s going on in an open and forthright manor. It’s been nice to hear what’s being done and how helpful the federal government is being towards those in need, it’s most likely due to what they’ve learned from Katrina but it’s refreshing none the less.

  22. Rachel

    It’s certainly been interesting and encouraging to see Christie and Obama work together in my home State of New Jersey (I wish i could be in the poll booth to see if Christie continues to support Romney or if this crisis and Obama’s reaction to it has changed his mind). I even heard through the rumor mill that Obama stopped at my high school on his tour of the traumatized coast. I certainly felt powerless, though mercifully safe, warm, clean, and well lit at Hofstra. Powerless to help family and friends, loved one’s who were shivering in the dark, homeless, turned out into the flooded streets from homes beyond salvaging. The past week has been unbelievable, like an alternate reality. An unexpected break, in which Hofstra students waited helplessly for word from family who had no cell reception, no electricity to call from their home phones (those who still posses land lines) no internet to update their face books or send email. An intensive, all corrosive communication failure.
    As time passed, and roads opened up, Hofstra students such as myself were blessed to give back to the community, and help in flooded homes. Give assistance to our friends and neighbors, strangers even, those who were randomly assaulted by nature while we escaped narrowly.
    It’s amazing to see that in the face of disaster, humanity restores itself through a generous, helpful, giving nature. As i was working with a group of young people in a flooded home, a family drove down the street handing out sandwiches and hot coffee for those of us working in cold dark homes for hours on end. It was beautiful. As they handed them out they said, “God is good”. It’s interesting to think, some people get angry at whatever god they do or don’t believe in in the face of disaster, but so much good comes out of disaster as well. It seems to restore the human soul, and appreciation for just how good we have it. Sometimes, we just can’t see the bigger picture. Just a thought.

  23. jsuare4

    This storm caused lots of damage. Parts of my town near the water are still without power. I have friends come over when they need to charge their laptops or phones since my part of the neighborhood did not get affected by power outage. The lines for gas is insane as to how quick people are ready to turn against each other. I’ve never seen so many cars camp out for hours and even start small fights to secure their spot in line.

  24. Lindsay Shulman

    As a public relations major it’s hard to even watch the news without analyzing how public officials handle situations like this. I’m from NJ and spent the weekend home because my off campus house here has been without power and heat. Governor Christie has done a great job staying in front of the cameras and being completely transparent about the plans of the New Jersey government.

    Coincidentally or not, the hurricane came right before the election, and it will be interesting to see how it affects Tuesday.

  25. Taylor Albright

    I applied for an absentee ballot before the storm and I thought that I would never get it in time to vote. Luckily, I did receive it and was able to place my vote.

    I can not believe the tragedies that Sandy has done to the many families along the East coast. I am from NEw jersey, and although I am not close to the shore line my town got hit very hard. No flooding, but a lot of terrible things that happened to many families I know. And being that I go to school on Long Island there are many families I know affected by Sandy here. When I did have power I thought that Gov. Christie did a great job in addressing the problem. He knew that many would be with out power but said ahead of time, when it is ok to go out and work on the power there will be people who do so, if it is too dangerous for workers to go out, then the people with out power need to sit tight and be patient. I think he also did a good job reassuring the people of Nj that we will be ok, as did Cuomo. They both suggested that NJ and NY are very strong states and will be able to pull through this.

  26. Nicole Risell

    I agree this week was a huge challenge for people in the public relations world and I thought Hofstra did a great job of keeping everyone, students and parents alike, informed throughout the whole storm. The Facebook page was constantly being updated about classes being cancelled and what campus locations were open. It was also nice seeing students band together and help with clean-up efforts and providing to those who didn’t have much left after Sandy hit.

  27. Julie Rafatpanah

    It’s undeniable that the hurricane has been horrible for many, especially those in the Long Island area.
    I’m personally worried about people being able to get out to vote; many did not anticipate this type of damage, and I can understand that they have more “important” issues to deal with right now. Many would agree that this a very important election, and it’s really important that people get out to vote. I hope that those who need to get to the polls will find a method of doing so.

  28. Chloe Lambros

    Hurricane Sandy has done more damage than may have been expected. People have been without power for almost a week, and having to hear and see them struggle is heartbreaking. I am very optimistic, and I was trying to stay positive through the storm, given that I was not sure what to expect. Like Leia, I also received many concerning phone calls and texts from friends asking me about my family and home. I was so grateful and appreciative for the support. Luckily, my family was one of the only buildings in lower Manhattan that actually had power.

    In addition, I agree that “PR professionals are feeding life-saving information to people through the media; the same PR people are making sure our elected leaders (i.e. Cuomo, Christie, Obama, Bloomberg, and state, county and town officials) are consistently reassuring the public that help is here and we’ll all get through this together.”

    I also agree that President Obama should be commended and acknowledged for his effort in seeing that the Northeast recovers smoothly. In situations like these, it is hard to monitor or execute a perfect recovery plan, but I think Obama is using everything he has got and in his power to restore society. I fully support Leia’s statement in how this devastating series of events should not make more war for both parties, but bring all together and lend helping hands to recover the nation that is wounded.

  29. brittanywalsh

    During such a catastrophic event, public relations professionals have the extremely difficult task of delivering their messages efficiently to an audience that is likely in a state of panic. In an event where power and internet connection is minimal for many, the PR people must ensure their message is clear and effective because the information is vital and they might only get one opportunity to deliver it. From what I understand so far, politicians have responded properly by putting significant attention on the crisis at hand. I have also noticed many companies taking the initiative to respond to the crisis. For example, I’ve received an e-mail from Capital One saying that they’re waving all fees for those living in the areas that have been affected by Sandy. I also received an e-mail from American Express offering funds if need be. In sending these emails out, companies portray the message that they truly care for their customers.

  30. Alecia Detka

    I was very lucky to be untouched by Sandy and I couldn’t be more thankful. It’s hard to think that all these volunteer programs and encouraging words by our political figures are apart of a larger public relations campaign, but it is, with a high purpose. I could not be more proud of my school and housemates though. They all have volunteered to help out neighboring houses, and because our house remained untouched we have housed some people who are still without power. Any little bit helps.

    I hope everyone remains safe and sound.

  31. Jill Archibald

    This storm has been insane and I agree that elected officials seem to be doing their best to relay information to the public. Something that I have seen all over Facebook is people’s positive reactions to Christie’s statement that regardless of his political allegiances he is going to work with President Obama for the people of NJ and supports what the president has been doing in the aftermath of the hurricane. Videos of that statement went viral and it seems like the best PR that Christie could have ever done for himself.

  32. Leia Schultz

    The destruction caused by Hurricane Sandy has been devastating, and my heart goes out to everyone who was affected and lost cars, homes, or loved ones; being from Colorado, I didn’t know quite what to expect as Sandy approached, but I now understand all the worried calls and emails I received from people back home wishing me well – I can appreciate their concern more now and have been working to communicate with them and let them know that Hofstra is alright. It is true that human nature becomes more revealed in times of duress, as people begin to panic and struggle to make it through as gas and other supplies run low.

    President Obama must be commended, I think, for his effort to make sure that the Northeast recovers as best it can. Chris Christie, who has been a vocal supporter of Romney’s presidential campaign, has been lauding Obama for his response to this disaster – this seems to indicate that it takes a superstorm to get any sort of open compassion between Republicans and Democrats during this election cycle. When it really hits the fan, party lines are overlooked to ensure that every American gets the help they need; it doesn’t matter how conservative or liberal somebody is when they are asking for aid. Sandy is one phenomenon that should not be politicized by either party, rather it is situation that should bring this nation together to help reconstruct and reinvigorate the areas that were hit.


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