FEMA has an App
Our hearts go out to everyone affected by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy on the East Coast. It is yet another reminder of the need for emergency
preparedness — my own kit is not complete — so I spent some time on the website of FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Administration; photo is from the FEMA Media Library). It turns out that FEMA has a very helpful and
free Smartphone App — shown above. I installed it right away. It lists what your basic emergency kit should include; a way to plan your meeting locations; how to apply for assistance by web or phone; maps showing locations of current disaster recovery centers; and the latest blog posts from disaster officials. With power out for so many after an epic event like Sandy, this app is especially important and useful. I recommend it.
There’s a lot of other useful information on the main FEMA website, which is organized under these basic headings: “Plan, Prepare, Mitigate,” “Disaster Survivor Assistance,” and “Response & Recovery.” Their Media Library has a few other images, mostly upbeat, like this shot of the US Air Force transporting
Southern California Edison trucks to aid in the restoration of power. Under the “How To Help” link I found this statement: “The best way to support survivors of Hurricane Sandy is to make a financial contribution to the voluntary organization of your choice.” FEMA recommends that the way to do this is through the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Dsisaster (National VOAD — welcome to the land of acronyms) forum. This is “the forum where organizations share knowledge and resources throughout the disaster cycle—preparation, response and recovery—to help disaster survivors and their communities. To donate goods, visit the National Donations Management Network. Visit National VOAD to donate cash to one of their 50+ member organizations or donate through the State VOAD of one of the affected areas.” National Members of VOAD include such organizations as the American Red Cross and Habitat for Humanity.
The Universal Sandbag
The imagery of Sandy’s aftermath is distressing and riveting at the same time. The lowly sandbag is often the only defense against overwhelming natural forces: even Goldman Sachs retreated behind a sandbag wall at its headquarters in Lower Manhattan. So I looked for a more uplifting vision, and found it in the
“superadobe” invention of the late architect Nader Khalili of the Cal-Earth Institute, who won an Aga Khan Award for it in 2004. According to the Cal Earth website: “Long or short sandbags are filled with on-site earth and arranged in layers or long coils (compression) with strands of barbed wire placed between them to act as both mortar and reinforcement (tension). Stabilizers such as cement, lime, or asphalt emulsion may be added. This patented and trademarked (U.S. patent #5,934,027, #3,195,445) technology is offered free to the needy of the world, and licensed for commercial use.” An innovative — and hopeful — response to the disaster that is a lack of housing in the first place.