At one point immediately following Hurricane Irene, a whopping 2 million New Jersey residents were left without power. The news widely reported that the state government warned that some homes would be without power for as long as three to five days. While such a long timeframe could produce a great deal of consternation, it is hard to argue that all involved in getting power back on were not doing all they could. The extreme circumstances of widespread statewide damage made it the duration of time requiring to fix everything quite logical. So I will fault no one for that reality.
However there is a great deal of blame that must be shared for one poorly served area of responsibility. Most all locations and citizens who lost power, suffered from an incredible lack of communication between the state and their local governments. None of them were told by anyone, what was going on. None of them were told when to expect their power to go on and if they might be without power for so long that it would best for them to temporarily relocate.
Even those who have the most up-to-date, modern communication technology were eventually kept in the dark. Not only do laptops lose internet connection to the news once power is gone, cell phones also run out of power and in many cases electrical powered telephones with landlines become useless without electricity.
Furthermore; in the case of senior citizens, many do not use cell phones and lack advanced communication tools, but even those who do have cell phones and such, eventually run out of power and therefore their communication capabilities.
These people were figuratively as well as literally kept in the dark.
Now I won’t lay the blame for this on the Governor. Afterall, there are County governments and even more directly, there are municipal governments. In the case of the senior community in question, they even have a community management team. All of these lines of defense come before the state government, yet ALL of them failed the people.
This was a total lack of proper, effective, leadership, and the failure should serve as a lesson that allows the government chain of command to not fail the citizenry they serve and answer to.
Counties need to coordinate emergency information communications with those who are cut off from traditional electronic based communications. Municipalities should be able to mobilize teams who can canvass those areas left without electricity and communicate to residents the status of the outage and any advisories and information regarding of that outage.
Government, on all levels takes on many responsibilities these days. From providing housing, dictating education cirriculums, monitoring our eating habbits, to regualting whether we can put a fence up in our yard. Whether any or all of that iswarranted is arguable. But the one government responsibility that is not arguable is the one to keep its citizens informed and safe. And that is the one responsibility which government failed to properly live up to in regards to the handling of the power outages folowing Hurricane Irene.
This shortcoming is one which needs to be addressed. In addition to heavy winds, torrential rains and billions of dollars in damage, Hurricane also provided us with a lesson. Now it is up to government to prove that they learend the lesson.