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The MPA in Emergency and Disaster Management
Disaster Central
MCNY's Emergency and Disaster Management Blog

Salt Water Symposium Synopsis

July 23, 2014

by Daniella Miller

As a student of the emergency management program, I am pleased to have been invited to listen to the discussion of salt water damage on New York’s infrastructure. The 2012 Hurricane named Sandy caused 128 billion dollars in damages. It is considered the most expensive storm since Hurricane Katrina. By mitigating housing units, natural barriers and transportation systems, the state of New York continues to recover from the effects of Sandy. The key speakers of the symposium consisted of emergency managers from Louisiana, The Port Authority, engineers from the Underwriters Laboratory (UL), local and state police departments and experts from various insurance companies.

I learned that salt water is silently eating away at the infrastructure of New York. Transportation systems like the Holland Tunnel, George Washington Bridge, JFK Airport and the MTA have been impacted substantially. From flooding, salt has eroded electrical rooms, tunnels, rails, ceilings, wires, motor elevator pits, and lights. The damage can be microscopic and hidden from the untrained eye. Chuck Mellon, an engineer from UL stated that selected sectors should apply the desalinization method. Desalinization is the chemical process of removing salt. Also, electrical rooms should be elevated along with 100% replacement of damaged equipment. The Port Authority and the MTA are already making positive strides from these recommendations.

As we know, citizens of Katrina experienced a disastrous hurricane. This hurricane caused the levy’s to break and created a massive flooding which resulted in the deaths, destruction and the vulnerability of the entire state of Mississippi. Speakers from Louisiana water board of New Orleans provided important information in guiding New York on what steps to take for future hurricanes. Jason Briggs and Ms. St Martin from New Orleans proceeded to talk about funding from Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). One of Jason’s dilemma’s during the reconstruction of Mississippi was proving salt damaged its infrastructure. Some of the things Jason stated that disasters come in cycles and it is imperative for the Port Authority to document everything. In other words FEMA needs extensive proof including differences between rusting materials and corroded materials from salt. He also stated, table top exercises are extremely important in rebuilding communities. Finally as the meeting concluded, insurance agents, spoke about vocabulary or words that should be used when asking for government assistance.

In conclusion, the infrastructure of New York has experienced significant damage from salt water. New materials, power washing, desalinization and new equipment will be incorporated into repairing New York’s, natural barriers and transportation system. The government is there to assists but politics can hinder this assistance. Documentation and word usage are major factors in FEMA’S decision making. Finally, recovery from a natural disaster can take years and proper mitigation techniques are important toward building a stronger community in order to survive future disasters.

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