Saturday, November 03, 2012

How would I have fared when working in New Jersey and New York had a Sandy-like storm hit?


I did have occasion to wonder how I would have fared if a storm like Sandy had struck while I was living and working in northern New Jersey, and then later in New York City.

In 1970, I started out my career working for the David Sarnoff Research Center, the so-called RCA labs, in Princeton NJ, about six miles from my apartment to the east (toward Hightstown) in New Windsor, along a flat road.  I don’t know how that area was directly affected, but it is somewhat inland.

In 1972, I started working for Univac as a site rep, for the Montclair Branch in Montclair NJ, a town on a high Wachtung hill.  I lived in Caldwell, on another hill four miles to the west.  But we often visited accounts in downtown Newark (Public Service), the Whippany area (Bell Labs), and a client that I believe was in the low-lying meadow area, as well as New York City, sometimes.  I transferred to another branch in Piscataway NJ, lower and flatter (near New Brunswick), and lived in an apartment complex toward Bound Brook on River Road, near the Raritan river.  That apartment has flooded a couple times since I left, and may well have flooded during Sandy. 

Without gasoline and power, it would have been impossible for us to drive to client sites.  (IBM supposedly, in those days, had a rule that site reps must have their cars with them and should not use public transportation; Univac did not do that.)   Of course, client companies might well have been closed, but Public Service in Newark could not have afford to be closed (given the need to restore power) and might have found its 1106-1110 data center essential to restoring service to customers.  I don’t know what we would have done.  Univac was very good about putting people up in hotels, but would the hotels have had power or rooms available?  Maybe people would have had to double up, unknown with business travel for major companies, although small businesses (like baseball teams) sometimes make employees double up.  (That was actually an issue in the 1990s DuMuth v. Miller  anti-gay discrimination case, which I have discussed elsewhere.) 

Later, from 1974-1977, I worked for NBC in mainframe (again, Univac 1110) IT in the Rockefeller Center.  I don’t think it would have closed.  But my apartment (on 11th St, at about 100 feet elevation) would not have had power for four days.  I could have walked the three miles to work in about an hour.  I might have camped out in the office to have heat and power.

Then, when I worked for Bradford (to get IBM experience) for a New York State MMIS contract, I first worked in a building on Wall Street on the 17th floor.  We had a one-day power failure in the summer of 1977, but I actually climbed the 17 flights with no difficulty at all; I was pretty fit then (at age 33).  We had offices on Church Street, which would have closed, but also in midtown, where I could have walked to work.  New York State certainly would have extended the MMIS implementation date (which was Nov. 1, 1977) considerably.  

In these pre-Internet days, working from home or telecommuting was not an option,  But it doesn't work for people whose homes don't have power or even cellular service now either.  

I'm not a biker, but I have friends in NYC who are.  This would be a time when bicycling skill and stamina would get you through this.  

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