Hurricane Sandy: N.J. Flooding Poses Health Risks

With support from technology partner, Palantir, Direct Relief is analyzing real-time data in preparation to respond to needs near Atlantic City, N.J., an area hard hit by severe flooding and strong winds from Hurricane Sandy.

Around 6 p.m. EST Monday, Hurricane Sandy made landfall somewhere in the neighborhood of Atlantic City, N.J. The city’s famous boardwalks were quickly overwhelmed and broke upon the rising storm surge. Throughout the city, ocean waters rushed into the streets, threatening homes, business and public buildings far inland.  By early evening the New York Times was reporting that between 70 to 80 percent of Atlantic City was underwater.

Although no mandatory evacuation order was issued for the Atlantic City area, eight Red Cross shelters were operational as of 8 p.m. EST within a 75 km radius of the boardwalk. Most of those were either at or near capacity, including 152 persons spending the night at Buena Vista High School, located only a few miles from one of Direct Relief’s trusted clinical partners, Southern Jersey Family Medical Centers in Hammonton, N.J., inland roughly 30 miles from Atlantic City.

Under normal circumstances, many of the most seriously affected residents of this predominantly black and Hispanic city primarily seek care at safety net health centers. Often people receiving care here are being treated for chronic illnesses like asthma, hypertension and diabetes, all of which become significant concerns in the event that the storm disrupts clinical operations and supplies.

Analysis of past Direct Relief medical shipments done through the help of technology partner, Palantir, indicates that Southern Jersey Family Medical Center participated in a program in 2011 where Direct Relief collaborated with medical device manufacturer Becton-Dickinson (BD) to distribute insulin needles and syringes to those with type-1 diabetics affected by long term unemployment and economic uncertainty.

Direct Relief will continue to monitor health needs – both chronic and acute – in areas damaged by the storm. The concerns of socially vulnerable and chronically ill persons such as low-income, insulin dependent people with diabetes will be one of the key public health issues which rise to the forefront as we assess the full impact of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy.

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