In the wake of Congress’ approval of billions of dollars in aid for states hardest hit by Superstorm Sandy, like Connecticut, comes a new report from AARP that takes a local look at the impact of Sandy on the lives of Connecticut residents age 50 and over and how they rated the performance of elected officials and electric service providers after the storm.
AARP Connecticut State Director Nora Duncan said, “While our survey finds that the state and utilities have made progress since the storms of 2011, there is more work to be done. AARP fights on issues that matter to older adults and their families, and we look forward to working with legislators and electricity providers to ensure the lights stay on and our citizens stay safe when the next big storm hits.”
Rating Storm Response Efforts
Most residents who were surveyed (77%) lost power as a result of Sandy, with 69 percent being without power for four days or more. According to the AARP survey, a majority gave positive marks to elected officials and service providers for their responses to the storm. Electric utilities received the lowest ratings, however, with 32 percent of respondents saying they did a poor to fair job in the days and weeks following Sandy.
About half (48%) of respondents who lost power from Sandy and one of the 2011 storms said the performance of their utility company was better in Sandy than it had been in 2011. However, 40 percent thought their electric utility’s performance had not changed since 2011, and 10 percent thought it was worse.
Respondents most often credit utility companies with any change in their performance —better (63%) or worse (62%)—while respondents are more apt to credit state government with performance improvements (35%) than they are for performance declines (22%).
Impact on Health and Home
One out of eight (13%) respondents said the loss of power complicated health issues, with respondents most often reporting medical equipment interferences (65%), followed by monitoring system interferences (31%), and prescriptions drug storage issues (28%). Those with disabilities were twice as likely (25%) to report having health-related complications due to the power outage, with 84 percent experiencing interferences with their medical equipment.
One- sixth (16%) of respondents reported their homes were damaged during the storm, with over a third of these homes (36%) sustaining moderate or severe damage. Many respondents (15%) had to move from their homes due to the storm, but nearly all had been able to return to their homes by the time of the survey.
Access to Information
According to Duncan, “Connecticut residents also told us that having access to key information and resources in the wake of a natural disaster is critical to their well-being.”
Having important phone numbers for emergency assistance (47%) tops the list of information respondents say would have been helpful to have after the storm, followed by tips on how to avoid crime and scams, such as identity theft and price gouging (36%) and information about where to make claims for property losses and unemployment (35%).
Even though many older adults experienced hardship in the wake of the storm, nearly half of those surveyed (47%) provided help to others, either by volunteering or donating money or other goods.
“Nutmeggers are resilient and generous by nature, so even as folks struggled to put their own lives back together, they also made sure to help out their friends and neighbors where possible,” said AARP’s Duncan. “AARP was happy to be able to provide some financial assistance to local organizations dedicated to aiding those affected by the storm.”
The AARP Foundation and AARP provided $92,000 to organizations in Connecticut helping with storm relief, and donated more than $1.4 million across the region.
AARP conducted a telephone survey of 800 Connecticut residents living in shoreline towns in Fairfield, New Haven and Middlesex counties from December 12, 2012 to December 28, 2012. The survey has a margin of error of 3.5 percent.