Author Topic: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe  (Read 8818 times)

SageNytell

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Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« on: October 29, 2012, 04:59:53 PM »
Or - How I Learned To Stop Smiling And Dread Sandy
I work for the department of Taxation and Finance for the state of New York in their Collections department, and I had an interesting day today.  First off, some clarification - while, yes, to an extent, I am 'that guy' that you don't want to be needing to talk to ever, but I do my best to help people fix their root issues so they don't need to keep talking to my department.  What those people do from there is up to them, I can only give them the tools and information.

In an average day, I field between about 30-60 calls, with call length varying depending on the time of year (filing season, refund season, audit season) and the type of issue. I'm on the phone probably 5.75 hours out of the 7.5 I'm at work.  This matters only insofar as to tell you that today I've handled maybe six calls, none of which were of any particularly strange length.  Not as many of my fellow employees called out today as I expected, so we're not too short-staffed, but even still this is a tiny number of incoming calls.

Add on top of that the events of the storm and a sort of relaxation of the prohibition of internet use in between breaks so long as that use was storm-related, we had a rather strange atmosphere.  First the sky - from the time the sun was up this morning through when the phones clicked off for the day our skies were soot-gray.  My office is a side building connected to both of the main tax buildings with walkways and connecting tunnels, and we have the benefit of some rather large windows.  Those windows gave a particularly cheery view of the last remaining leaves being forcefully ripped from their trees and branches deforming in the wind, and of people moving in harried fashion through the courtyards and walkways of our office campus.  The ceiling started a weird whistling noise that has slowly ramped up at about 12:00, that's certainly been a bit unnerving.

The hurricane's been a constant and escalation source of discussion and news today.  Approximately 375,000 people in Battery Park and other low-lying areas of NYC were evacuated last night, in an attempt by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg to prevent another Katrina. I would have to assume that some others evacuated voluntarily, but that's guesswork.

I do know that we've gotten over a half-a-dozen emails today regarding the ongoing progress of the storm - bridges and tunnels being closed, river crossings shut down, and all 'non-essential' state employees in NYC, Westchester and Long Island being directed to go home and stay there for the duration of the crisis. Fun thing about 'non-essential' - while I'm geographically separate from the city up here in Albany, my office is deemed 'essential' so there's realistically little chance of ever being directed to leave similarly. On top of that, when catastrophic events hit (and as the President has mandated a federal state of emergency, this qualifies) my office can sort of shut down on a conditional basis and reopen as an emergency management call center. The same people who may have cursed me out a week ago could be calling in begging for assistance, and I'll help them the same.

There's sort of a quiet, banal sense of urgency and dread, but through it all, bureacracy continues. It's damned weird to watch!
Wish me luck on keeping power and heat in my home in the next few days!
« Last Edit: October 29, 2012, 06:09:56 PM by SageNytell »

clockworkjoe

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2012, 06:11:29 PM »
Good luck up there! The eerie nature of the calm before the storm is a great place to a set a game. Someone mentioned to me today that this would be the perfect time for a heist or hit. With all the chaos and police overwhelmed, some cunning crooks could easily pull of a job that would be impossible otherwise.

SageNytell

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2012, 06:24:14 PM »
Even better update is evidently if things get bad enough we'll be converting temporarily into a 24/7 disaster relief call center, going on additional 8 hour shifts to cover the non-business hours. I might be getting a much better idea of disaster response from the inside over the next week.

Setherick

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #3 on: October 30, 2012, 10:57:42 AM »
Good luck! Stay safe! And thank you for your service!

The most important people during the freak ice storms that pummeled Springfield were essential government employees that had been sequestered for call center duty.
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Tadanori Oyama

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #4 on: October 30, 2012, 11:27:24 AM »
Quote
The hurricane's been a constant and escalation source of discussion and news today.  Approximately 375,000 people in Battery Park and other low-lying areas of NYC were evacuated last night, in an attempt by Governor Cuomo and Mayor Bloomberg to prevent another Katrina. I would have to assume that some others evacuated voluntarily, but that's guesswork.

This seems like an interesting beginning to a horror game, especially something like Fear Itself. If some people disappear how many days before anyone thinks to look for them?

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #5 on: October 30, 2012, 03:37:49 PM »
Does anyone else find the duality of complete removal from a crisis situation while having scads of information about it a creepy experience?  I monitor computer and radio networks for a major power company in Michigan.  We've got real-time access to multiple government monitoring, weather tracking and emergency broadcast systems, including those along the eastern seaboard.  The campus I work at houses multiple buildings, generators, boiler houses and even a fallout shelter with a few hundred employees present on any given week day.  Unless you're like me and work the midnight shift.  Then it's one or two coworkers and a security guard.

Sitting in the windowless office I share with my coworkers, surrounded by a dozen glowing monitors showing all the information of what sort of havoc the storm was wreaking, with the radio broadcasts coming in from first responders, the number of homes without electricity and heat ticking up through the night, is a surreal experience.  Even if it's easy to get jaded about it.  I think it's the lack of connection, having other people around to act like it's any other day, that really intensifies the feeling. I'm just glad I don't work further east.

Setherick

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #6 on: October 30, 2012, 06:00:13 PM »
Does anyone else find the duality of complete removal from a crisis situation while having scads of information about it a creepy experience?  I monitor computer and radio networks for a major power company in Michigan.  We've got real-time access to multiple government monitoring, weather tracking and emergency broadcast systems, including those along the eastern seaboard.  The campus I work at houses multiple buildings, generators, boiler houses and even a fallout shelter with a few hundred employees present on any given week day.  Unless you're like me and work the midnight shift.  Then it's one or two coworkers and a security guard.

Sitting in the windowless office I share with my coworkers, surrounded by a dozen glowing monitors showing all the information of what sort of havoc the storm was wreaking, with the radio broadcasts coming in from first responders, the number of homes without electricity and heat ticking up through the night, is a surreal experience.  Even if it's easy to get jaded about it.  I think it's the lack of connection, having other people around to act like it's any other day, that really intensifies the feeling. I'm just glad I don't work further east.

I think that this is best summed up by two pictures of Con Edison trucks that I saw published in the NY Times and Reuters - I don't have them saved or I'd post them. The first picture was taken before the storm and it showed a fleet of Con Edison trucks lined up to respond to emergency power outages after the storm hit. This was perfectly reasonable idea and showed great forethought in the emergency planners. The second picture, taken last night sometime, showed a few Con Edison trucks floating down a completely inundated street. I'm willing to bet that these were part of the same fleet of trucks pictured some hours before. Sometimes all the planning in the world can't match the reality of the given situation.
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Teapot

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Re: Bureacracy Amid Catastrophe
« Reply #7 on: October 31, 2012, 05:04:18 AM »
Good luck up there! The eerie nature of the calm before the storm is a great place to a set a game. Someone mentioned to me today that this would be the perfect time for a heist or hit. With all the chaos and police overwhelmed, some cunning crooks could easily pull of a job that would be impossible otherwise.

Or just a normal one. I was listening to the police scanner for (I forgot) some part of NYC last night and there was a break in and I think some other stuff as well.