Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Hurricane Sandy Charitable Efforts

Hurricane Sandy Aftermath Brings People Together

The Hurricane Sandy aftermath has caused people to come together and help victims in creative ways. Recently, a group of celebrities participated in a relief concert that was broadcast live all over the nation—the 12-12-12 concert—and $50 million of the raised funds were distributed through the Robin Hood Foundation. The first wave of funds came from telephone donations, ticket sales, merchandise sales and sponsorships. Music downloads, DVD/CD sales and auctions of signed merchandise and memorabilia will make up the rest of the donations.

The cream of the entertainment industry crop is often front and center with united efforts to solicit charitable donations during huge natural disasters. Hurricane Katrina and the devastating earthquake in Haiti also galvanized Hollywood’s best and brightest for a night of fundraising and music.

Other Hurricane Sandy Charitable Efforts

However, celebrities certainly aren’t alone in their charitable efforts. There is also an auction taking place on December 19th for Hurricane Sandy relief, wherein furnishings, art and d├ęcor fashioned from Hurricane Sandy debris will be sold. The pieces include table tops, lighting fixtures, wall art and chairs—all made from trash! The artists and designers participating in this auction are called Reclaim NYC.

Right after the worst of the hurricane, hot dog carts, taco vendors and burger trucks stationed themselves amid the worst of the wreckage, in the neighborhoods without power. The company Domino Sugar donated more than 30,000 pounds of products, including sugar, coffee, and powdered beverages to victims.

Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School Pajama Drive

With the Christmas season quickly approaching, many families will lack the resources to provide their kids with even a home to call their own, let alone toys and gifts. In the spirit of the season, students at Wadena-Deer Creek Elementary School held a pajama drive so that kids could get warm pajamas and books this Christmas.

Creativity is Key in Charitable Efforts

While it is important to continue channeling money and goods to all of the different organizations dedicated to helping the storm victims, it is also important to maintain a creative spirit when looking for solutions. Having different drives, auctions and concerts helps keep the altruistic fires stoked, and also helps people who might believe that they don’t have a voice contribute to the efforts. My brother Michael Omidi and I applaud all of the different ways people have decided to step up and help all of the communities that were forever altered by this terrible hurricane, and we hope that the spirit of generosity continues until everyone suffering from deprivation finally has a comfortable home again.

Julian Omidi on Stress Eating

High stress causes people to eat nutritionally devoid foods for comfort

Without question, everyone on the east coast was affected by Hurricane Sandy. Doubtless, everyone who lost a loved one, a home or a job is under an inordinate amount of emotional stress, and when we experience stress, many of us eat.

Hurricane Sandy linked to increase of stress eating

The aftermath of the super storm has people worried. Whether it is the pressure of cleaning up the debris, the strain of wondering if a home or business can be salvaged or concern over what will happen to children and elderly relatives, the mounting stress can lead people to compensate in unhealthy ways. Many people who once embraced healthy lifestyle choices are now finding themselves reaching for processed snack cakes, cookies and crackers; foods they didn’t consider touching before. These cravings have manifested themselves from the worry and dejection over trying to overcome problems that seem insurmountable.

Stress Eating can be Addictive

The problem with these cravings is that they are self-perpetuating. Consuming fatty, sugary and salty snack foods can cause a chemical reaction in the brain resulting in a feeling of euphoric calm and quick satiation. Regular consumption of these foods can cause the body to feel sluggish and tired, making us more susceptible to stressors. Once again, we seek comfort in those same sugary and fatty foods. If these foods are consumed on a regular basis, or on occasions when we feel taxed, there is clinical evidence to suggest that it can turn into a form of addiction.

Residents rush to eat food they hoarded in preperation for Hurricane Sandy

Many residents without power began a type of food hoarding; loading up on packaged foods that would keep without refrigeration, and hurriedly eating their refrigerated foods before they spoiled. Ordering pizza, burgers, fries and other greasy takeout became the only option for people who weren’t sure when their electricity would return, and many would eat huge portion sizes that they would ordinarily save for another meal. Boredom eating is also a factor. While huddled in their homes and waiting for the storm to hit, residents sat, watched the news and ate.

Recovering from stress eating addiction

Unfortunately, because stress eating is also stress inducing, recovering from a junk food spell lasting several months is very difficult. It is important to learn stress coping methods that help in both the long and short term. Many people turn to meditation or yoga in order to relieve stress. Physical activity elevates mood and reduces feelings of anxiety. There are also certain foods that have been shown to reduce stress by lowering the stress hormone cortisol and increasing seratonin. Complex carbohydrates like whole grain breads and oatmeal stabilize stress hormones and regulate blood sugar levels. The vitamin C in oranges also helps regulate cortisol. Other great stress reducing foods are magnesium rich spinach, salmon, black tea, almonds and milk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Julian Omidi on Hurricane Sandy Public Housing Defaults

Julian Omidi is a cofounder of the charity No More Poverty with his brother Dr. Michael Omidi. In this article, Julian Omidi discusses the plight of the elderly and disabled public housing tenants who still have no access to electricity, water or gas, even more than a month after the storm.

NY Public Housing Still Suffering from Lack of Service

New York City public housing is still suffering from lack of service more than one month after Hurricane Sandy made landfall. The suffering is felt most acutely by residents in the more remote areas of the Rockaways, Red Hook, and Coney Island. New York’s public housing authority is reporting that, while there were mandatory evacuations issued prior to the “Super Storm,” these were not heeded in many of the public housing units, since many of the older and infirm residents felt relatively secure. However, it was not anticipated by these residents that the heat, electricity, water and gas would take so long to be restored. Many disabled residents are trapped at the top of their public housing towers due to power outages that rendered the elevator systems unusable. Some chronically ill residents are rationing their medications because they cannot access or afford to get new supplies. Carbon monoxide poisonings are rampant from tenants that are using their ovens and burners for heat.

FEMA Volunteers Discover Tenants Cannot Contact Offices

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) began sending representatives to public housing complexes to hand out vouchers and check on the residents, many of whom hadn’t been out of their buildings in weeks. Because the requests for federal aid were significantly lower than what was anticipated, FEMA planners were dispatched to find out why. It was because the tenants couldn’t contact the offices. Extra food stamps that were issued to people whose food was spoiled by the storm and lack of refrigeration were never redeemed, likely because the people who received them couldn’t reach grocery stores. The city of New York didn’t even have a tally of how many public housing residents were trapped in their apartments. Moreover, there wasn’t a number of how many of those residents were in direct peril from health complications or lack of food and water. Even as mayor Bloomberg gave press conferences and issued statements that declared that everyone, or almost everyone, in New York City Public Housing would have power and services restored, it became apparent how many people were still in dire straits. Volunteers reported finding diabetic tenants without insulin and wheelchair-bound people trapped at the top of stairwells.

Although the immediate aid response after the hurricane hit was generally believed to be outstanding, many of the people in these housing complexes are still waiting for answers as to why, when much of the city’s power has been restored, they are still without heat and reliable electricity.

Private Charities and Organizations More Successful than Public Counterparts

Fortunately for many of the public housing residents, private charities and organizations seemed to be able to intervene more effectively than their public counterparts. Medical teams organized and went looking for trapped residents and ice and batteries were distributed to people with no power. Public officials began taking their cues from the efforts of the volunteers, and started to organize hospitals and assistance stations based upon the logs and reports of the private volunteers.

With the help of private charities, federal and city officials are beginning make the exhaustive search through the public housing towers and giving supplies and assistance to those who are still trapped inside. Now that city officials have a slightly better grasp of the enormity of the situation, it seems hopeful that everyone who is still suffering from the effects of the storm will receive aid.

Julian Omidi on Hurricane Sandy Housing Aid Workers and Victims

Julian Omidi on Hurricane Sandy Housing for Aid Works and Victims

Julian Omidi is a philanthropist and cofounder of the charitable initiative No More Poverty with his brother Dr. Michael Omidi. In the following article, Julian Omidi discusses the housing situation post-Hurricane Sandy for both the storm victims and relief workers.

Aid Workers stay aboard Merchant Marine Training Ships

With housing scarce for New York residents who found themselves homeless after the devastation of Hurricane Sandy, where were the aid workers who traveled from Washington, Virginia and Pennsylvania going to stay? The answer is: aboard Merchant Marine training ships.

More than 1,000 aid workers were dispatched by the federal government to provide relief to the many thousands of people displaced by Hurricane Sandy. The teams have been working nonstop providing relief, outreach and recovery, and because there are so few vacancies in the New York hotels, the easiest and least expensive alternative was to install the workers on military training ships that are docked in the Bronx and Staten Island.

Because the workers spend so much time in the field working with victims, they only needed a place to bathe, have a meal and sleep for a few hours every night. The training ships offered classroom facilities as well, so that the FEMA directors could conduct orientation and assignment training sessions. The ship is outfitted with bunk beds, group showers, lockers, a mess hall and even a bar, where workers can occasionally meet and unwind.

Housing Situation for Storm Victims Unresolved

The housing situation for the storm victims is still unresolved. Many of the residents that were left homeless after the storms rendered their dwellings uninhabitable are staying in Manhattan hotels, although for many of them, it is uncertain for how long. Ironically, Mayor Michael Bloomberg recently discarded a plan to house the storm victims on luxury cruise ships from the end of December until May, stating that cruise ships were used for housing after Hurricane Katrina, and the result was unsuccessful.

The scramble in New York for temporary housing has been replaced by a scramble to repair the damaged homes, so that residents can move back into their residencies without having to transition into temporary shelters. Thus far, 400 of the approximately 100,000 damaged homes have been completed.

New Jersey is faring somewhat better in the housing situation. It was announced that new temporary developments are being developed at Fort Mammoth, a former military facility. According to a prepared statement issued by Richard Constable, Community Affairs Commissioner of the New Jersey Disaster Housing Task Force, “A very high percentage of displaced households were staying with family and friends when they registered with FEMA. However, as some of these housing situations become unsustainable, residents who have been unable to secure available, affordable housing will need additional temporary housing alternatives.”

Now that the demand for relief workers is diminishing somewhat, there aren’t as many federal workers being housed aboard the training ships. This might come as a relief to many of the workers, who have found it difficult to become accustomed to life in New York. Apparently, the stress of riding the subways outweighed the stress of working with the hurricane victims.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Environmental Concerns: Hurricane Sandy

Environmentalists worried about millions of gallons of raw sewage

One of the most costly and persistent after-effects of the Hurricane Sandy disaster might be the flood of partially treated and untreated sewage from several east coast sewage treatment plants. Not only might this be a health crisis of epic proportions, it is estimated that it might cost more than $1 billion to repair. Public health officials and environmental advocates are very concerned about the effect millions of gallons of raw sewage will have on the waterways, bays and beaches.

Before sewage is released into oceans and waterways, it is processed in order to remove bacteria, toxins and solids. After Hurricane Sandy, the circuitry in the electrical equipment shorted in numerous treatment plants have caused the sewage to flow into the waterways in its raw and dangerous state.

Sewage plants in the region are nearly all located near sea level and are therefore susceptible to the violence of storm surges. Additionally, many plants were built several decades ago, and were not constructed to support so large a population.

Drinking water was not affected by the damage to the plants, according to officials, because they operate on separate systems. However, restrictions of water usage were imposed in order to alleviate some of the stress on the treatment plants.

Last year, Hurricane Irene caused a raw sewage flooded residential streets and lawns of Barnes Avenue in Nassau County from the loose manhole covers. The county responded by bolting the manhole covers in place, but in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, the pressure of the wastewater running around them led to the erosion of much of the road, and the flood of raw sewage entered homes along with the flood water, causing the residences to be uninhabitable. In order to be decontaminated thoroughly, the homes must be stripped down to the frames. Department of Health officials went door to door distributing pamphlets delineating the health risks of raw sewage, and encouraging residents to vacate until a proper assessment can be performed. Raw sewage can breed salmonella, Hepatitis A and other dangerous diseases, and many homes might not be habitable, ever. Homeowners are still unsure whether the damage to their homes has been evaluated and if they will ever be able to move back in, or even begin the process of restoration.

Raw sewage that is flushed into the ocean will eventually break down, although the shorelines where the sewage was flooded will remain unsafe for recreation or fishing for quite a while. However, sewage that leaks into the sediment will linger for a much longer time.

Hurricane Sandy: Hypothermia and Carbon Monoxide Poisoning

300% Increase in Carbon Monoxide Poisoning and Hypothermia

Even though power and heat have largely been restored to residents of New York City after Hurricane Sandy, the numbers of people suffering from carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia is 300% higher than it has been in the past at this time of year.

12,000 Unheated Apartments post Hurricane Sandy

It is estimated that there are approximately 12,000 people living in unheated apartments. Cold weather can lead to aggravation of lung and heart diseases as well as triggering depression and anxiety. Poison control centers and emergency rooms are reporting far higher incidences of carbon monoxide poisoning than anticipated, as indicated by visits to the emergency room. Aged and disabled residents in unheated homes that were unable to leave due to nonfunctioning phones or elevators had to wait until emergency responders were able to rescue them.

Carbon Monoxide (CO) Poisoning

Carbon monoxide (CO) gas is colorless, odorless and is highly toxic and even fatal. Because red blood cells absorb CO more quickly than oxygen, if there is a high quantity of CO in the air, oxygen can be completely displaced in the bloodstream by CO, causing damage to the tissues. People with compromised respiratory systems, infants, the elderly or heart conditions are especially vulnerable to CO poisoning. Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning are dizziness, nausea, headache and loss of consciousness. Unless CO poisoning is suspected, it is difficult condition to diagnose because the symptoms are similar to numerous other illnesses. Many die from CO poisoning in their sleep without experiencing any symptoms.


Hypothermia is caused by persistent exposure to cold temperatures in air or water. Preliminary hypothermia symptoms include blue grey skin color, particularly in lips and fingernails, lack of balance, slurred speech, confusion, persistent shivering and numb hands and feet. Late stage hypothermia symptoms are loss of consciousness, stiff muscles and the body becoming cold to the touch. If the body temperature drops below 90 degrees, shivering may stop. Untreated hypothermia can be fatal, but healthy adults and children can make a complete recovery in a relatively short period of time. Infants, the elderly and the infirm generally take longer to recover. The highest number of hypothermia cases was the result of people submerged in freezing water waiting for rescue.

Preparing for the Winter

As the winter season progresses, older adults, the mentally ill, people with a history of substance abuse and residents that have chronic illnesses are most susceptible to carbon monoxide poisoning and hypothermia, as well as stroke, heart attacks and asthma.

CO poisoning was triggered by gas leaks in the aftermath of the hurricane, but also by unsafe efforts to keep warm using stoves, generators and even barbeques.