Hurricane Sandy was a large-scale natural disaster that had serious impacts on the mental and physical health of New Yorkers. These impacts were wide ranging and unique, in part, due to the effects of the storm on NYC's built environment including widespread power and heat outages followed by cold weather;large numbers of people sheltering in place in high-rise residential buildings where power outages disabled elevators and running water;transportation shutdowns;emergency healthcare facility evacuations;residential evacuations;and disruptions to healthcare access. Despite the best efforts of many government agencies and other organizations, 43 deaths were directly attributed to Hurricane Sandy in NYC, primarily due to drowning. Additionally, in the 10 days following the hurricane (November 1-10, 2012), death counts were 11% higher than expected compared to the prior two years. Neither the causes of this excess nor the broader impacts of the storm on physical and mental health have been fully characterized. Additionally, many of the populations most affected by the storm and its aftermath were already vulnerable and the storm is likely having long lasting impacts in these groups. This research will use multiple data sources to investigate 1) the increase in overall mortality immediately following Hurricane Sandy including any possible increase due to health care facility and nursing home evacuations and residential flooding and disruption of power and transportation;2) the full extent of and modifiable community and individual-level risk factors for injury-related morbidity and mortality;and 3) the immediate and long-term impact of Hurricane Sandy, evacuation, displacement, and relocation on the mental health of NYC residents. Data sources will include vital statistics mortality data, medical examiner case investigation files, American Red Cross interview data, emergency department syndromic surveillance, hospital discharge, and a population-based and two special Hurricane Sandy-specific surveys. Several of these datasets will be matched, allowing for the full characterization of the morbidity and mortality impacts of the storm to identify vulnerable populations most in need of government services to aid recovery. The findings will also improve the timeliness of recovery plans in future disasters by establishing a process for combining and analyzing data to support recovery plans.
Characterizing the physical and mental health effects of Hurricane Sandy is important so outreach can be conducted to populations that still remain vulnerable. Additionally, this will help the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene to better prepare to respond to future disasters.