Superstorm Sandy’s urgent message: “Backup electricity”

The images and stories from Superstorm Sandy are too reminiscent of Katrina. Flooded communities. A fractured infrastructure that cannot help thousands of citizens for days. The storm passes but local, state, and FEMA responses, while well intentioned, don’t stop shortages of electricity, gasoline, food, and transportation.

The key lesson is that all of the needed emergency infrastructure runs on electricity. And we can’t depend on the grid in an emergency. ┬áMy three point plan for off-grid electricity won’t eliminate hardships, but it will speed the recovery process by days.

Can We Get More Gasoline for Storm Victims?First, require cell towers to have power backup. It can be solar, hydrogen cells, or fuel based. Since cell phones provide the most critical communication system, lets require providers to ensure availability and tax the cellular users to pay for it.

Second, require gasoline retailers to have generator backup. Even with fuel onsite, if they dont have electricity, they can’t serve the public. Too much gasoline is sitting in tanks and not helping the public.

Third, use FEMA dollars to equip local public facilities, especially schools and shelters, with backup generators. The fuel source may be tailored to local requirements. In an emergency, people need a safe, warm place to stay immediately, when their home is damaged.

Lets not wait for another catastrophe to upgrade our infrastructure. We don’t know where and when it will happen, but there is no reason to be unprepared. Off grid electricity is the key strategy for minimizing personal hardships and saving lives.