On October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy made landfall in the neighborhood of Red Hook in Brooklyn, New York. The massive tidal surge generated by the storm submerged the coastal area, home to a population over 11,000 individuals, including the largest public housing development in Brooklyn. The infrastructure devastation was profound: the storm rendered electricity, heat, water, Internet, and phone services inoperative, whereas local ambulatory medical services including clinics, pharmacies, home health agencies, and other resources were damaged beyond functionality. Lacking these services or lines of communication, medically fragile individuals became isolated from the hospital and 911-emergency systems without a preexisting mechanism to identify or treat them. Medically fragile individuals primarily included those with chronic medical conditions dependent on frequent and consistent monitoring and treatments. In response, the Red Hook community established an ad hoc volunteer medical relief effort in the wake of the storm, filling a major gap that continues to exist in disaster medicine for low-income urban environments. Here we describe this effort, including an analysis of the medically vulnerable in this community, and recommend disaster risk reduction strategies and resilience measures for future disaster events.
Keywords: disaster medicine; emergency preparedness; floods; voluntary workers.