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Blog Category: Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

Working to Ensure Americans Remain Connected When Disaster Strikes

Cross-post by Stephen Fletcher, Associate Administrator, National Telecommunications and Information Administration

With the start of summer comes the beginning of the hurricane season along much of the U.S. coast. And with hurricanes comes the increased possibility that communications could be disrupted.

Less than two years ago, Hurricane Sandy left a trail of death and destruction including disrupted communications for millions of people and thousands of businesses along the East Coast. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has reported that about a quarter of cell sites across 10 states and the District of Columbia were knocked out of service during the peak of the storm.

As the Executive Branch agency primarily responsible for advising the President on telecommunications and information issues, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) has been working with other federal agencies to help Americans remain connected in the wake of natural disasters or other emergencies.

In its report released last August, the White House’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force called on NTIA and the U.S. Department of Energy to work with the FCC to develop recommendations that help facilitate improved resiliency for cell phone towers, data centers and other critical communications infrastructure in the event of a power disruption following a disaster. NTIA and the Energy Department expect to complete the recommendations later this year.

In the meantime, the FCC has developed some steps consumers can take to ensure they remain connected should disaster strike and power is lost. The recommendations, developed with the help of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), include charging your wireless phones and other wireless devices ahead of a coming storm and using text messaging instead of making a phone call to help alleviate network congestion during and after a storm strikes.

For more information on what to expect from the upcoming hurricane season, check out the latest predictions for the Atlantic and Central Pacific regions from NTIA’s Commerce sister agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

One Year After Sandy, Commerce Continues Helping Communities Rebuild

Satellite view of Superstorm Sandy, 10-29-12

One year ago today, Sandy made landfall along the mid-Atlantic coast. The storm devastated communities, families, and businesses. While it’s natural to reflect on the tremendous damage the storm wrought, today also presents us with an opportunity to look toward the future.

Before, during and immediately after the storm, the Department of Commerce provided information and data that helped save lives and property and get commerce flowing again. But our work hasn’t stopped and we continue to help in rebuilding efforts.

From spot-on forecasts delivered four days before the storm’s landfall to economic assistance to working to open ports, Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA) and Economic Development Administration (EDA) have been standing with our federal agency partners to assist affected communities. In the last year, the Obama administration has provided direct assistance to more than 230,000 people and small businesses and has announced more than $39.7 billion in funding for recipients. 

EDA serves as the administration’s lead for economic recovery as part of the National Disaster Recovery Framework, which coordinates key areas of assistance in the wake of natural disasters. Since Sandy struck, EDA has provided targeted technical assistance through peer-to-peer forums to assist the New Jersey tourism industry, government procurement roundtables, “Access to Capital Meetings” to inform business resources of traditional and non-traditional financing mechanisms, and providing risk management resources to small businesses in the region. Ultimately, these initiatives have helped provide small businesses, local leaders, and economic development practitioners learn best practices and empowered them to undertake robust recovery efforts.

Commerce Agencies Participate in Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force

President Obama’s Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force, chaired by Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan, released a rebuilding strategy to serve as a model for communities across the nation facing greater risks from extreme weather and to continue helping the Sandy-affected region rebuild.  The Commerce Department made significant contributions to the Rebuilding Strategy containing 69 policy recommendations that will help homeowners stay in and repair their homes, strengthen small businesses and revitalize local economies and ensure entire communities are better able to withstand and recover from future storms. 
 
The Rebuilding Strategy includes policy recommendations that will have a significant impact on how the region rebuilds and how we will improve our ability to withstand and recover effectively from future flood-related disasters across the country.

Federal agencies collected and disseminated vast quantities of scientific data that aided Hurricane Sandy preparation, response, and recovery. Interagency data sharing has been central to this process. Before the storm, the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) worked with FEMA to deliver Geographical Information System (GIS)-ready storm surge depth grids and forecasts. After the storm, FEMA, state, and local emergency managers used aerial imagery collected by NOAA to guide evacuations, monitor local conditions, assess damages, and allocate response resources. Hours after the storm passed, NOAA also began surveying the waterways that lead to critical petroleum facilities within the Port of New York/New Jersey, helping to ensure safe navigation and restoring the flow of emergency fuel supplies by morning. Within five days, NOAA, working with the Coast Guard and Army Corps, restored maritime commerce, including transportation of food, fuel, and rebuilding supplies, to all major ports in the affected region.