Sometimes Disaster Needs a Truly Trendy Response

Dec 5, 2012, 1:52 PM

Rickshaw Dumplings and Frites ‘n’ Meats might not sound like disaster response teams at first. But in a way, they are. The growing urban trend of food trucks—self-powered mobile kitchens that change locations frequently and tweet out each new sidewalk address—have been the solution for many New Yorkers in need of hot meals since Hurricane Sandy. And with more than 10,000 people still without power, many “cool” hot meals continue.

As of last week, about 230,000 meals had been served, most paid for by the Mayor’s Office and corporate contributions.

Equally trendy is a vacation stay in a rented room in a house, instead of a hotel. One site, AirBNB, which matches rentees and renters, has become a resource embraced by the Mayor’s Office. The post-Sandy twist is that the rooms are offered by their landlords at no cost to those in need of shelter. Checklists for all parties help create safe stays.

And customized disaster software, for a fee, is another way communities are bouncing back. was founded by two women after a tornado hit their hometown in Massachusetts. The software creates options for users that let people ask for help, donate help and see real-time information via Twitter feeds about what’s happening in their area. Several communities hard hit by Sandy—including Manhattan’s Lower East Side, Brooklyn’s Red Hook neighborhood and Hoboken, N.J.—have deployed the software.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.