Guest post by Ean Murphy, Moxie Bookkeeping, New York
Hurricane Sandy and its aftermath provided a stark reminder of just what a huge role technology plays in our lives – and how helpful it can be in times of crisis.
Having grown up in California, where earthquakes happen with no warning, knowing the storm was coming felt like a luxury. I made sure my insurance was up-to-date, I safeguarded important documents and phone numbers (I keep originals in a mini fire/water proof lockbox and copies of docs in Evernote, for example), and made plans to contact and check in with staff post-disaster to make sure everyone was safe.
Fortunately, this was a smaller job than it has been in the past because most of my data is now kept in the cloud – which is automatically backed up on a regular basis, storm or no storm.
More fortunately, I was one of the lucky ones during the storm. The power and Internet stayed on in Brooklyn (where I live and work).
Lights off in Manhattan
Manhattan was a different story. When I got across the bridge into the hurricane-stricken Lower East Side of Manhattan, I was shocked by how surreal everything was. All the buildings were dark and locked, and I didn’t see very many people who weren’t walking their dogs or homeless.
I did, however, see a film crew trying to finish their film and an Irish pub that was running a generator to keep the lights on and their phones charging. They gave me a free cup of coffee and offered me some whiskey (it was a little early for the latter, so I declined).
But then when I crossed back over to 25th street, where the power was on, it was like going from one stage to another. People were on their cell phones; they were rushing around; they were no longer friendly like they were in the dark areas.
Technology makes life easier
It all showed how much we depend on technology. Without power and Internet, everything ground to a halt. The client I visited in Manhattan was reluctant to pay bills or spend money – as were his clients. Business ground to a halt without access to technology. A friend of mine living in one of the dark areas told me she spends all day sitting outside with her dog because once the sun goes down, the gangs of thugs hit the streets.
On the other hand, the whole ordeal was a testament to how much technology can help us. With my data in the cloud, I didn’t have to worry about the effects of water on a server. Had my power gone off, I would have been able to carry on working from anywhere with a working Internet and phone connection – so if it came down to it, a hotel room in upstate New York could well have become my temporary office!
Technology has also been instrumental in helping people get what they need to make it through the aftermath of Sandy. For example, Occupy Sandy Relief NYC is using Amazon’s wedding registry to facilitate donations. They put items people need on the registry, and anyone can buy those on victims’ behalf. Then the Occupy Sandy Team (based in relatively-unscathed Brooklyn) delivers those things to the people who need them. It’s a great effort, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the Internet. This is just one of many online initiatives that let anyone in the world help the people of New York efficiently and with a minimum amount of effort.
Another example is New York Cares where rather than buy actual goods; you can just donate money directly. Again, you can do it from anywhere and it only takes a couple minutes.
So it’s a tough time here in the tri-state area, and my heart goes out to the people who were directly affected. But it’s great to see how much of a difference technology can make when it comes to getting a city back on its feet.