A matter of perspective

Published in FSD Update

A year after Hurricane Sandy, Editorial Director Paul King reflects on his own "disaster preparedness."

A year ago this week, I and millions of my fellow residents of the Northeast lived through the terrifying experience of Hurricane Sandy. It was only the third hurricane to strike New York City since I had moved there in 1984, and it was by far the most destructive.

Now, as I write this I am looking out at the skyline of Chicago from our 20th-floor office in the western suburbs of the Windy City. I relocated earlier this year in a move totally unrelated to the hurricane and its aftermath. So I’m now a world away from that frightening 18 hours of Oct. 29 and 30, 2012, both in time and distance. But the mark that it left is indelible.

The message of Sandy also is etched in my consciousness: No matter how prepared you might think you are, there is always something more you can do.

I had lived on Staten Island for most of the past 30 years but had relocated to what New York City considers a Zone 1 evacuation only in July of 2010. My wife loves the beach and we relished the fact that we were now only 10 blocks from it. Fear of a hurricane strike never hit us; the only tropical storm in my memory was Hurricane Gloria in 1985 and although it had caused $300 million in damages it had made little impact on me.

Then came Hurricane Irene, in August of 2011. We were warned of the potential danger and told to evacuate. Like virtually all of our neighbors, we scoffed at the suggestion, although my landlord did board up the picture window in our second-floor apartment.

Irene came and went, and we gained confidence from the experience. We knew what to do to ride out a major storm and how to handle the loss of power that could last a few days.

So when the alarms for Sandy were sounded, we actually did a little less than we had for Irene. We ourselves made sure we had the same kinds of provisions as we had a year earlier, but this time our landlord didn’t even board up the windows. As a result, we were able to witness firsthand the fury of this hurricane.

As the night wore on, and the storm surge inundated basements and threatened to flood the lower levels of neighborhood homes, we wondered whether we in fact were right not to evacuate. In the end, we and most of our neighbors remained safe. But the destruction we saw mere blocks from our apartment was shocking, and the tragedy stung me personally, as well.

When the World Trade Center came down 11 years earlier, I knew not a single person among the thousands who perished there. But a friend of mine and his son were two of the 38 people who died during Hurricane Sandy.

If there is a moral to this story for foodservice professionals, it would be this: However you prepare for a disaster, it just might not be enough. When you draft a disaster plan and make a list of what you will need for X, Y or Z, how confident are you that it is complete? And when the warnings come, as they did for us with Sandy, how much credence do you truly give them?

Reflecting on Hurricane Sandy, I don’t know whether we would have done anything differently; it was a huge storm, and when I think about evacuation I still ask myself, where would we have gone to feel truly safe?

But I do know this; if I find myself in this type of situation again, I will be more thorough in my examination of all my options. Whatever happens, I want to know that I did everything right that I could. You, dear readers, should approach your disaster preparedness the same way.


More From FoodService Director

Ideas and Innovation

When it comes to sustainability, sometimes the smallest kitchen changes can make the biggest difference. When Chris Henning, senior assistant director of dining services for the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, switched from standard latex gloves to nitrile gloves, he also set up a recycling program. Once recycled, the gloves are turned into playground equipment, bike racks and park benches.

Henning says the nitrile gloves have been a good fit for his department, both in terms of durability and cost. “Participating in the campus buying program reduces the cost, as [our]...

Ideas and Innovation
elderly old hands

A family’s request for at-home meal support for a patient at Lee Memorial in Fort Myers, Fla., led System Director of Food & Nutrition Services Larry Altier to uncover a gap in care. He saw that only 1% of patients had been coded (diagnosed and labeled for billing purposes) as malnourished, while more than 60% of all Lee Memorial patients are over 65 years or older, a population that experiences the issue at a higher rate.

His discovery helped more rigorously identify malnutrition, but it also strengthened Lee Memorial’s community connection. The hospital launched a delivery...

Ideas and Innovation
nutrition facts label

Despite operators’ attempts to communicate nutrition information to guests via cards and labels on the food line, many guests still feel they have no clue what’s in their food. University of Illinois food economist Brenna Ellison shares a few guesses as to why consumers ignore these signs following a recent study on their placement in dining halls.

Q: Who is most likely to read the cards?

A: Students who were already exhibiting more healthy behaviors. So those were the students who track their intake using an app or a food diary. After the first week, we found the rates of people...

Managing Your Business
studient orientation

When an alma mater and an employer are one in the same, it can be a win-win for both the employee and the school. Here’s how two students’ experiences with campus dining—one positive and the other negative—led them on a path to their current jobs.

A Feast to Remember

NC State University’s main campus in Raleigh, N.C. was built on farmland given to the state by Richard Stanhope Pullen; every spring, students gather to celebrate those agricultural roots through Farm Feast, an outdoor celebration with food and music. Design major Christin King remembers her first Farm Feast vividly: “...

FSD Resources