Great Comfort Rarely Brings Great Growth

Since the whole storm-response episode began on Oct. 29, I kept a log of ideas and events which I could be used as the basis for future planning and preparation for future disaster operations.


The past few weeks have been extraordinarily different. For those of you outside of the New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut areas, you may need a bit more information upon which to base your understanding of what I am about to say. My friends the Jersey Shore was obliterated by the forces of Hurricane Sandy on Oct. 29. The devastation has been beyond belief. 

Let me suggest that I have been responding to storm-related incidents for many decades now, but this storm was one for the record books. To put the impact of this storm into perspective let me simply state that theNew Jerseyshore area of my youth is gone forever.

Let me broaden the focus for you. The folks on Staten Island, the Rockaway area of New York City, and Long Island also got their respective clocks cleaned. My area was spared the destruction. For those of us inland folks, there was a lot of inconvenience, and some wind-related damage, but whole areas of the shoreline were literally washed away. The storm surge from the hurricane created new inlets where the ocean met the bay along our barrier-island areas. 

As I sat in church the other day, Senior Pastor Scott Brown's message to our congregation started the juices rumbling around in my brain. The title of this piece comes directly from his sermon. His point was well taken. Rarely do we achieve great things in life during those times when we are living a comfortable and supportive life. 

It makes sense if you think about it. If you do not have to work hard or do a lot, it is quite probable that you won't achieve any sort of breakthrough success or personal improvement. In the absence of challenges to our reality, it has been my experience that complacency will creep in and fill up all of the available space on your mental dance card. 

My friends, it has been my good fortune to have been in the emergency response business for nearly five decades. I have been through forest fires, floods and earthquakes in Alaska. My associates and I experienced a number of typhoons and monsoons in the Philippine Islands and Vietnam. In addition it has been my pleasure (ha ha) to have served during blizzards, tropical storms, hurricanes and conflagrations in here in New Jersey.

However, I have now lived long enough to see the results of the worst storm in the recorded weather history of New Jersey; the worst storm in over 100 years. My associates and I here in Adelphia have seen and done a great deal in the last few weeks. Hurricane Sandy has devastated many areas in my home state.

I spent the better part of five days living in the fire stations of our district with my fellow firefighters here in Adelphia. We moved from place to place during the run up to the storm, handling a wide range of minor emergencies in our neck of the woods. As the senior man on duty, my role was initially limited to being the radio room operator. So my whole view of the storm was limited to say the least, but since we were dispatching from our own fire station radio room, it was my good fortune to be at the heart of the action.

There were protocols for our storm emergency operations. Let me assure you of the fact that our fire company followed established township protocols. Calls came to me by phone from the emergency operations center (EOC) and I sent the units from my station or the units from our Station #2. Our chief laid out the district so that each station was responsible for a set area. We did not want our equipment racing from place to place and ending up out of position for any incoming runs. This worked very well.

At the height of our storm operations we had crews on all of our rigs making responses. As you might imagine, we were quite busy, but nowhere as busy as our fire colleagues along the shore areas. Their responses number in the hundreds. Our hearts were with them.

As I watched the television coverage of the disaster on my laptop computer in the Adelphia Firehouse, the images on the screen haunted me. I saw the Jersey Shore of my youth erased from the map. I saw numerous places up and down the coastline where the bay area met the Atlantic Ocean in areas all up and down the Jersey Shore.

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