New York Receives Mixed Reviews: Accessibility and Hurricane Irene

The events surrounding hurricane Irene have caused quite a stir in the United States since it hit Virginia on August 27th.

The last time a hurricane hit Virginia was the tail end of 1969’s hurricane Camille which caused flash flooding and 157 deaths. I know personally one of my friends recently became a fire fighter in Virginia, and was stunned by the occurrence of a hurricane there. The amount of emergency calls his team received that night also tripled that of a usual busy shift, with fallen trees and fires caused by the aftermath of the storm.

The states that were forecast to be hit by hurricane Irene all along the east cost went into emergency mode, especially New York. New York was originally thought to have been in danger of falling directly into the eye of the storm and was therefore divided into Zones: Zone A was likely to flood with a Level 1 storm or above; Zone B with a Level 2 or above; and Zone C with a Level 3 or 4 storm. Higher areas were considered safe to stay in. However Zone A was subject to a mandatory evacuation including hospitals and care homes. An article from Workers World describes the difficulties that resulted from some of these evacuations: http://www.workers.org/2011/us/hurricane_irene_0908/.

The evacuations presented problems but finding accessible shelters presented others. While New Yorkers were promised accessible shelters, fair amounts were not what they were promised. An article from Public News Service describes some of the shelters and their accessibility flaws: http://www.publicnewsservice.org/index.php?/content/article/21929-1

It is clear that Mayor Bloomberg tried to make New York as prepared as possible given the limited notice they received. However it is also clear that despite the ADA, people with disabilities still have a fair amount of adversity to face in emergencies. Especially given that prior to the storm the Mayor ordered that the power be turned off and elevators be shut down to avoid people becoming stuck. So your in a wheelchair, you live on the 10th floor, the power has been turned off, and you have to get out? The Mayor explains the method to this madness: MAYOR BLOOMBERG UPDATES NEW YORKERS ON CITY RESPONSE TO HURRICANE IRENE

If you have any stories about your own personal evacuation experiences, join the conversation, I’d love to hear from you!

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