Hurricane Sandy caused unprecedented loss, private and public.
But it was not the first storm to hit New Jersey or Montclair. It is not the first time individuals and entire towns lost power. It is not the first time Americans became homeless. It is not the first time life was lost. It is not the first time power utilities, landlords and government failed to prepare for disaster or provide essential services thereafter. We have no municipal, state or federal umbrella.
Government has a fiduciary and moral responsibility to provide an umbrella, otherwise there is no justification for taxes and even less need for their leadership. Elected officials are stewards of the public welfare. It is government’s responsibility to design and implement an umbrella.
On the municipal level, the design must include a mandatory requirement that all landlords and property management companies provide a fuel-powered generator in any property held for revenue. There should be a municipal call center to help facilitate emergency medical, evacuation, and rescue services as well as information and disaster updates.
In addition, there should be an emergency refuge, temporary and long-term housing for displaced residents. There should be mobile medical care and short-term follow-up.
There should be a local emergency management team that does what the Federal Emergency Management Agency is incapable of doing: provide guidance, organize relief services, keep the public informed, coordinate access to or delivery of emergency shelter, food, and security. It helps to facilitate work by nonprofit care organizations in the locale.
This model applies to states as well as municipalities. The model suggests teaming arrangements that come into play before a disaster occurs. That means a municipal readiness plan made public. The plan establishes basic tasks assigned to specific individuals or teams.
Right now, we are little better than a Fourth World nation in terms of disaster response. Yet we have the greatest resources.
Costs associated with creating, maintaining and executing a municipal and a state plan should come from taxes and FEMA reimbursements as well as direct aid from the federal executive branch. Municipalities and states must be more accountable and must take full ownership of the umbrella. There is no valid excuse for indifference and inertia.