Electricity and elevator service interruptions during Hurricane Sandy trapped thousands of people in high rises, and now, the city the works to improve its response the next time. NY1's Michael Herzenberg filed the following report.
Marta Cecilia Briones' kids live out of state. She stays alone and suffers from epileptic seizures. Hurricane Sandy trapped her on the fourth floor of her building.
"There wasn't an elevator, so then I thought, if I start to go down the stairs, since I don't realize when the convulsion comes, I could have fallen down the stairs," Briones said through an interpreter.
She normally walks to Henry Street Settlement Senior Services for government-funded meals. That nonprofit realized that thousands of its clients were trapped, so it turned to Citymeals-on-Wheels, which took on thousands of additional meal deliveries and upped its volunteers by hundreds.
"I feel like they're my grandparents, and that's why I do it," said volunteer Cassandra Armstrong.
"We climbed 27 stories in one building," said Samantha Boardman of Citymeals-on-Wheels. "The sense of relief on the recipients' faces made every step worth it."
Briones said she wouldn't know what she would have done without the five days worth of food which enabled her to take her medication. She lives in public housing, and the city admitted that federal privacy regulations got in the way of responding to people like Briones.
"To avoid those regulations going forward, we are creating an opt-in system for that identification, which will allow us to identify more categories of residents that need assistance," said Cecil House of the New York City Housing Authority.
The city as a whole also plans to be more efficient during the next storm. It's working to mix information files on buildings across the city with details on those who live there to make a searchable, loggable database.
"So now, we'll know this is vulnerable person on a higher floor of a high-rise building, perhaps only with an elevator to get up and down that may be incapacitated," said Deputy Mayor Linda Gibbs.
Briones said she knows she needed help and was grateful for it, but also learned from the storm to help herself the next time. She plans to have water, non-perishable food and a flashlight, just some of the things you'll need in an emergency bag.
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