Was hurricane Irene a leadership moment for Pa., N.J. and Del. politicians?

    All through Hurricane Irene, as well as the hours before and after, area officials hatched emergency plans, pulled on their rain gear, and spoke to the people.  When it comes to disasters, politicians often dress to impress.

    Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter sported a windbreaker.  New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pulled on a fleece zip-up jacket.  And in Delaware, Governor Jack Markell pulled on a baseball hat.”They want to show people that they’re like them and that they’re not in their Ivory Tower with their suit on,” said Sarah Bass, an associate professor of public health at Temple University.  Bass dismisses suggestions that the hurricane was over-hyped.”All you have to do is look at is Katrina to see what’s going to happen if we don’t talk about it beforehand and consistently and try to really say, ‘This is a significant event that could cause mass destruction and death,'” she said.Bass points out that even with warnings and precautions there were still deaths, power outages and flooding.  “The fact that we didn’t have more is a testament to having some pretty consistent messaging and people taking those messages pretty seriously,” said Bass.

     

    Esther Chernak from the Drexel University School of Public Health helped develop the city’s public health emergency preparedness program.  “Mayor Rudy Guiliani kind of set the bar–and set it high–following the attacks on the World Trade Centers in New York City in that he really set an example for how criticial it was for government officials to get in front of the public early and often and provide situational updates and clarity about events that had happened, even when there wasn’t much information to be had,” said Chernak.Chernak says area officials did a great job of making decisions enough to get people out of harm’s way.Political consultant Elliot Curson says pictures of politicians “taking charge” may be back in campaign ads.”It’s a great visual you have to use it!  I’d say, ‘Yeah get me pictures.  Send over any footage,'” said Curson.  “That might be great in a commercial, that might be great in an ad.  It shows leadership, it shows you’re on top of the job.”Even if the pictures of them aren’t perfect, at least area politicians don’t have to worry about bad pictures: like those from Hurricance Katrina – of desperate residents waiting to be rescued from rooftops. 

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