Satellite communications help community recover
Averting a crisis
After the storm, many residents had been living with friends and family nearby. On one of the first Saturdays when residents could return to retrieve items from their homes, we encountered an event that could have had grave consequences.
While everyone was on site at their homes, the city decided to close the bridge to traffic. Nobody could get in or out. Without a hospital or medical facilities at Breezy Point, if someone had a heart attack, they wouldn't be able to make it to safety. We used our communications to send a clear message to the mayor's command center: This is a nightmare, and someone could get seriously hurt if you don't open that bridge. The potential crisis was averted.
Today — more than 100 days after Sandy struck the coast — we are still relying on the Hughes and Cisco communications solution to coordinate logistics and rebuilding efforts. It is absolutely vital to our mission, which has expanded to include the rebuilding or repair of 750 homes.
Visitors to the site will still see a disaster area, but the progress is real. Just a few weeks ago, we moved our first family into a completely rebuilt home, and we have 12 other homes that were scheduled to be ready by the end of March.
Many of the housing structures are built, but getting heat and electricity to these houses is taking more time, because the infrastructure completely was destroyed. Even little victories — getting water running to your home again, or having gas restored — can change the atmosphere around here.
All of this is possible largely because of the efforts of 4,400 volunteers, with groups coming from high schools, colleges and local churches. Companies have donated their supplies and expertise — with communications serving as one of the most critical examples.
Jim Killoran is executive director of Habitat for Humanity of Westchester, N.Y. To learn how you can contribute to their efforts, go to www.breezypointdisasterrelief.org or facebook.com/BreezyPointHurricaneSandyInformation.