Solving a Crisis of Their Own During Superstorm Sandy

Last October, Superstorm Sandy affected people along the Eastern Seaboard. For some families in the region, though, the storm did more than damage property; it exacerbated what was an already stressful home life. Organizations like 180 Turning Lives Around, a non-profit dedicated to ending domestic and sexual violence throughout North Jersey, were instrumental in the recovery process for many of these families.

Before Sandy hit, 180 Turning Lives Around operated 2NDFLOOR Youth Helpline of New Jersey, a toll-free telephone helpline designed to listen to and assist children and adolescents with their day-to-day concerns. During an average week, 2NDFLOOR receives more than 2,000 calls. However, when the storm hit, the organization faced new challenges.

“During Superstorm Sandy, no staff members or volunteers were able to come into the call center due to closed roads and dangerous conditions,” said Vincent Nappi, call center manager. “Even once the roads were deemed safe to drive, they were not able to come because our call center is located in an area that was without power for five days following the storm.”

180 Turning Lives Around found an answer in their pocket. Employees and volunteers continued to answer calls via their mobile phones so they could respond to crisis calls both during and after the storm.  

“During this time, we used the Verizon Wireless network to answer thousands of calls from concerned and frightened youth in New Jersey,” said Nappi. “We were able to forward all calls coming in on the helpline to our Verizon Wireless mobile phones to keep an open line of communication and assistance.”

In the months following, 180 Turning Lives Around touched more than 1,300 lives that had been affected by the storm – 1,000 of which were children, teens and young adults. Since the storm, 2NDFLOOR has responded to more than 6,000 calls from families dealing with Superstorm Sandy-related issues.

Of those who called the helpline, nearly one in three reported an increase in symptoms for a pre-existing health condition, and many reported new health conditions as a result of dealing with the storm.  Almost one-quarter were homeless for more than a month following the storm, and an equal number reported substantial loss of possessions.

“There is no doubt in my mind that if it wasn't for the mobile call forwarding services and the Verizon Wireless network, we would not have been able to operate in the aftermath of the storm, and the thousands of calls we took would have gone unanswered. Verizon Wireless’ network was critical in helping us keep the helpline open during that extremely difficult time,” said Nappi.

Jessica Bruzzi, a support counselor for 2NDFLOOR, described her experience, “During Superstorm Sandy, our call center had to be closed, but thankfully I was able to use my phone, powered by Verizon Wireless’ network, to answer calls remotely. I was so grateful to be able to provide the necessary support and resources to help those in our area who needed it most.”