Thursday, November 1, 2012

Lessons from Sandy–Are We Listening?

I was on the phone with my son in New Jersey on Monday at the moment the roof of his home was lifted off by Sandy and he had to flee for his Life.

He left everything behind and sought safety as the water poured in from above.

Life is more important than stuff.

In the aftermath, I am surprised to see how many people have forgotten to express gratitude for what they have survived.

For example, I am intrigued and disappointed to see people in social media bash utilities like Jersey Central Power and Light and others, demanding that service be restored now or else.

Many of these people are in no imminent danger.  They are safely in their homes.  They don’t need power to pump out flooded homes.  They don’t need power to drive important medical equipment.

Compared to many people who are in danger or who have been made homeless, they don’t need anything at the moment.

They are, however, tired of the inconvenience.

Meanwhile people have died in this storm or have been wiped out.  Many are homeless or are days or weeks away from returning to what’s left of their homes.  A linesman in Ontario was electrocuted and killed repairing damage from Sandy.

The fine folks at all the utilities are doing their best to restore service as quickly and safely as possible.

The better question is “Did we do our best?" in preparation for the storm.

Are we doing our best now?

We were warned

The interesting thing is that with all of our ability to communicate and be informed, many chose to not take action despite being warned for days leading up to the event.

For as many of us who use smartphones daily for unimportant stuff, it turned out that the owners of the smartphones and other devices weren’t terribly smart at all.

While we are more intelligent collectively as a species than we ever have been in recorded history, I can’t say the same is true for many people as individuals.

Yes, it is true that for many in coastal areas or in known flood-prone areas, there is not much you can do but get out and say a prayer that what you leave behind will survive.

However, for many inland, being informed means being prepared, stocking up on food, water, fuel, sources of heat, sources of light and sources of electricity in the form of generators and the like.

And for some, this preparedness includes sources of self defense.

Emergency preparedness people tell us this all the time.

And few people listen and take action.

But man oh man, do they ever have the energy to slam the brave men and women who are out there rescuing people, cleaning up debris and doing their darndest (even putting their life on the line) to get the country back on its feet.

And instead of kissing the feet of those brave men and women, too many yell at them loudly and incessantly, claiming that their alleged incompetence and inability to deliver results when we demand them is simply not good enough.

Is this why brave men and women made (and make) the ultimate sacrifice in so many wars and in emergency responses and rescue services – to allow us to continue to be selfish, greedy and victims by our own hand?

I doubt it.

We had up to 7 days of warning to prepare.

And yes, people say that the hype over Hurricane Irene and such taught them that they could ignore this storm.

That’s an excuse – not a reason.

Here’s what frightens me.

Governments around the world, including the Canadian and US governments, are preparing for much larger disasters than Sandy.

These disasters may come in many forms. 

We have tasted natural disaster many times.

We have lived with the potential disaster of nuclear obliteration for decades.

Some people claim that disasters resulting from global warming will make Sandy seem like a breeze on a summer’s day in comparison.

Some nations are preparing for disasters that one would think only exist in the world of science fiction, including off-world threats.

Some believe that a cyber attack will derail us, creating confusion and devastation in transportation, energy production, communication, food and water distribution and perhaps even civil defense.

The good guys and the bad guys are planning for scenarios where, as great nations like the US are up to their eyeballs in dealing with something like Sandy, someone pushes “the button” and executes a cyber attack that turns everything off and leaves the nation totally defenseless.

Groups like the Department of Homeland Security and others are preparing for these scenarios and others – scenarios that would paralyze us with fear.

If one pays attention to the laws that are being passed, the scenarios that the military are rehearsing in the name of civil defense (not foreign wars) and the weapons that are being stockpiled for civil defense purposes, it is easy to see that the government is planning for something big.

Despite the conspiracy people who go crazy over this stuff, we need someone to prepare for such scenarios.  After all, we don’t seem capable or willing to do it ourselves.

The history of humanity teaches us that when it comes to preparedness, possibilities often turn into probabilities if we don’t address them or if we pretend that by not focusing on them that they will simply go away on their own.

When (not if) one those scenarios comes to pass, the people who actually have the energy to complain on Facebook, Twitter and the like will not be able to complain because the communication infrastructure will not be there to enable their griping.

It wouldn’t matter if the infrastructure was there anyway because most people will be so busy surviving that they won’t have time or energy to worry about complaining or reading other people’s complaints.

Using our energy appropriately

In storms like Sandy, once we realize that we have survived and are safe, we need to turn our energy and resources towards those who need help the most.

We need to lift up those who need to be lifted up.

We need to lift up those who sacrifice themselves or put their own lives on the line to lift others up.

And after we rebuild, which we always do, we need to ask ourselves one question.

What have I learned from this and how can I prepare myself and my family to deal with such events in a better way moving forward?

Because when the next one comes, and history teaches us that it will come, we need to do our best to be the strongest that we can be for ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our nation.

Failure to prepare may prove to be fatal …. for our ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our nation.

Instead of being the victim through failure to take action, let’s take control of our safety and our future and not rely on others to do it for us.

After all, it is possible that there may not be anyone out there who will be able to help us when the next event hits.

There is an old adage that “history teaches us that history teaches us nothing”.

Maybe it should be reworded along the lines of:

History always teaches us many things of great value.

The question is whether the students are listening, learning and applying the knowledge.

Let’s remember that rebuilding is not complete until the learning lessons have been acknowledged and applied.

Otherwise we haven’t learned anything at all.

In service and servanthood,


Addendum: November 1, 2012

My blog doesn’t show comments by default.  However, if one clicks on the comments link below, one will see an example of how such events can bring out the worst as well as the best in humanity.

My assertion that we need to take more responsibility for our safety and our future produced a death threat from someone who thought he was being anonymous.

As long as we have a sense of entitlement that we as individuals have no responsibility in taking care of ourselves (and thus our world), our world will continue to get more complex and more difficult.

A complex world where only the fittest will survive.

Just as Darwin suggested.

Addendum 2: November 1, 2012

Let’s not forget that preparedness not only means being ready ourselves but calling on other organizations to be ready also.

Personal responsibility and public accountability go hand-in-hand.

Otherwise we end up experiencing violence because of gas shortages, disappointment in groups like the Red Cross and other situations.

In the grand scheme of what governments are preparing for, Sandy may prove to be insignificant in impact.

Let’s make sure that we strive to be better prepared the next time.

And that only happens when we hold everyone, including ourselves, responsible for being better prepared.


  1. I couldn't agree more Harry. As usual a very lucid look at the situation.

  2. Dear Anonymous,

    Insults are easy to throw out when done behind the cloak of anonymity. They require no courage, intelligence or level of social graces. :-)

    However, such comments prove:

    1. That some people prefer to be a victim and to not care about how they take care of themselves.

    2. That Darwin's theories may prove to be accurate at a time perhaps inconvenient for people like you.

    Create a great day. :-)


    1. If Darwin was alive he would bitch slap the shit out of you. You spout nothing but BS ! Let's talk Facebook and JCP&L, people need to vent and JCP&L was smart enough to give them a place to do so without calling their service representatives. IF you are not in NJ then SHUT UP about it, you have no clue. If your son did not lose his roof he would be one of the idiots on Facebook demanding their power now. People are lemmings and need to follow each other and once one jumps off the cliff the rest follow, example look at all the morons on JCP&L Facebook site. Facebook perpetuates the lemmings as do blogs and other social network sites. Hence why I am anonymous and not a lemming like you, I just happened on the JCP&L Facebook site and hoped you had something relevant to say. What is obvious is you have no clue on infrastructure or anything relating to it. You’re a geek with a blog and a computer, now shut up and let people who know how to run things get back to business!

    2. And if you are in New Jersey, tell me where you are you motherfucker and I will come and kill you myself. People who pay for their utilities have a right to vent and to demand that they not be turned off.

    3. I rest my case. :-)

      I do feel good that I have given you an opportunity to vent your frustration and to express some sense of power and authority in an anonymous fashion.

      Such venues are useful for people who feel otherwise disempowered or who feel that they don't have a voice. I may be brightening your day in giving you this venue - that is awesome! :-)

      I know quite a number of people who work in the infrastructure space (from linesman right up the chain to the tops of these organizations) and I know people are doing what they can to make things right.

      Venting serves no purposes. The dialog on Facebook goes beyond venting - it is calling for these people to be punished, fined, fired and a bunch of other things.

      Just as you are calling for similar for me.

      There is a big difference between venting because one is frustrated and threatening to turn that frustration into something else.

      I believe that everyone's world is made easier when people support those trying to make a difference instead of senselessly bashing them.

      I also know that if more people prepare more effectively, they have less reason to be so negative and in fact are in a position where they can help those who are in real need.

      It is always true that many people, regardless of preparation, will be in need of help. Sometimes the best preparation can prove to be inadequate.

      We who are doing ok should do what we can to help them .... which in turn helps those who are working tirelessly to get everything back to normal.

      Now ... if you have the courage to reveal yourself after having issued the death threat, maybe we can have a real dialog towards making the world a better place. :-)

      Meanwhile, posts that are anonymous are traceable and I have already determined where you sent yours from. That's one of the benefits of being "a geek with a blog and a computer". There is no such thing as anonymity.

      But since you are all-knowledgeable, you already know this also.

      By the way, I heard from someone relaying a status on behalf of my son today. They expressed gratitude that things could have been worse. And he lost more than just electricity.

      In the meantime ....

      Create a great day - because merely having one is too passive an experience.

    4. By the way ... in response to your assertion that Facebook is a brilliant strategy that allows people to vent all their frustration online and not tie up folks otherwise, there is this item:

      "Other targets of frustration are the utility crews working to restore power. With the daunting task of repairing nearly half of all service in New Jersey and as much as 80 percent on Long Island, local power companies are getting help from out of state. But that doesn't stop angry calls to company offices and even occasional confrontations on streets - when utility workers can even be spotted. The Long Island Power Authority advised customers angry at a lack of visible LIPA crews that many working to restore electricity to Long Island have come from out of state and are using personal vehicles."

      Read more:

      And so the anger boils over as it will - people are not getting it "off their chest" on Facebook as you suggest.

      This is a time for patience, especially when patience sometimes requires people to dig deeply to find it.

      A time for cooperation.

      A time for respect.

      A time for understanding in difficult times.

      A time for lifting others where we see opportunity to do so.

      A time for helping those who are attempting to lift those in need.

      A time for demonstrating how compassionate, caring, sharing and loving we really can be in times of duress so that we can rebuild.

      And after we have rebuilt, then we need to get back to difficult questions and answers that help us be stronger the next time.

      Threats and insults under the cover of hoped-for anonymity don't contribute to any of these.

      In fact, it only whips people up even more and delays solutions.

      And then you are not part of the solution.

      You are part of the problem.

  3. Thanks for your kind comments, Christian!

  4. I'm amazed at how "we" are so quick to blame others and circumstances for what we don't have instead of choosing to express gratitude for what we do have.

    thanks for the reminder and if you ever catch me taking the little things for granted holler at me!

    thanks for all you do!


  5. Thank you for your kindness, Marie.

    And thank you for everything that you do - you are a true servant leader making a positive impact on the world.

    Create a great day!


  6. From an empty mind comes empty threats. From a thoughtful mind comes wisdom.

    A person who has survived and thrived while often battling the seemingly insurmountable, develops coping mechanisms, an attitude of gratitude, and the desire to be a blessing to others.

    A person whose greatest life challenge has been a hangnail develops the ability to squawk loudly as does a "banging gong or a clanging cymbal."

    I know which one I'd rather have in my corner.

    Wishing your son all the best and that things get sorted quickly for him. He's probably busy helping others to create a great day amidst the chaos. Just like Dad.


  7. There is wisdom in your words, Bonnie.

    And kindness.

    I thank you for both. :-)

  8. This is an eye opener to how our nation has become non independent;Many of us would struggle for some time IF we had to go back a few generations.As for the negative comments,they should wise(toughen)up a little and not take everything for granted.

  9. Thanks, Wesley.

    I agree with you. Many people don't realize how close we are to reverting backwards in terms of technology. How we would survive such an event could be the greatest testament to our potential - and determine whether we are successful or not in our effort to adapt (and survive).

    Create a great day.