Government Responds to Sandy with “HUGS” and Kisses

Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary

November 19, 2012

Ongoing Response to Hurricane Sandy


On his third trip to New York City since Hurricane Sandy made landfall, President Barack Obama announced a new federal program, Operation HUGS, to ensure an immediate response following any natural or man-caused disaster.

Operation HUGS (Holistic Unified Government Services) is a joint partnership between FEMA, the United States Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Within 24 hours of a disaster, a senior government official will be safely escorted and placed in the impact zone to interact with citizens.

In addition, hand-held technological devices will be provided to record these encounters, which may include handshakes, comforting embraces, and brief conversations.

“Never again will days pass before a government official is seen publicly interacting with victims whose lives have been shattered,” said the President as he stood upon the remains of a Staten Island correctional facility. “These images of concern will be recorded immediately and broadcast at lightning speed throughout the world.”

“Federal, state, and local officials have done a tremendous job responding to Hurricane Sandy. But I am troubled that not everyone is aware of this,” the President added. “Their focus, compassion, and determination in the face of chaos should not just be lauded, but applauded.”

“Mr. President, thank you to you!” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “While we may not have heat in our homes, our hearts have been warmed by the comforting embraces of government officials. You exemplify the spirit of partnership and the spirit of community. And Operation HUGS will cement your legacy for all time.”


Office of the Mayor
New York City

November 19, 2012


Vowing to “fight like I never fought before,” Mayor Michael Bloomberg today updated New Yorkers on a series of initiatives to protect public health and hygiene in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

The Mayor said he was “distressed” by reports of people “dumpster diving” to find food in the wake of the catastrophic storm.

“We cannot tolerate the image of New Yorkers poking through the garbage for their next meal,” said Mayor Bloomberg. “It is not just unsafe and unsanitary, it is unhealthy. Thousands of people are ingesting food that may not meet the City’s standards for salt and trans-fat content.”

“Will we survive Sandy only to fall prey to obesity?” the Mayor added.

Among the initiatives:

  • The New York City Health Department has partnered with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to set up dozens of “Sandy Sanitizing Stations.” These self-contained, one-stop units offer clean water and hand sanitizer to be used before or after a meal on the go.

“Dumpster diving is the third-leading cause of Hepatitis C and the fourth-leading cause of treatable skin infections,” said the Mayor.

  • The federal Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has agreed to deploy roving “Tiger Teams” to monitor and measure discarded or donated food for fat, trans-fat, cholesterol, caloric, and sodium content.

“This reasonable compromise enables us to temporarily lift the ban on food donations to homeless shelters,” the Mayor said, acknowledging complaints by good samaritans whose homemade casseroles, soups, pies, and other dishes have been thrown away by health officials.

“I have not only heard from you, I have listened,” the Mayor said.

  • The New York City Central Labor Council and the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) have enacted an emergency “24/7 Crackdown” to ensure that delivery of fuel, water, food, and clothing from out of state is conducted exclusively by union shops paying prevailing wages.

“We do not heal from Sandy by hurting workers,” said the Mayor.

  • Responding to reports of roaming packs of feral dogs, the Mayor implemented an innovative “Adopt-a-Pet” program. Veterinarians from the City’s animal shelters will offer their services free of charge to families that agree to take in one of these wild animals.

“A pet can be a wonderful companion for the newly homeless,” the Mayor said.

  • More than 500 marathon runners, prevented from racing by the storm, have been deployed throughout the City to hand-deliver hard copies of government speeches, news releases, and interview transcripts to families whose homes remain without power. The documents will be translated into English, Spanish, Farsi, Pashto, Urdu, and Braille.

“Countless New Yorkers have gone weeks without being able to hear a speech by a government official,” said the Mayor. “This is a preventable tragedy, and we aim to prevent it.”

“Mr. Mayor, thank you to you!” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “I was personally amazed and touched by your phone calls and attention even during times that were very, very busy. You exemplify the spirit of partnership and the spirit of community. Well done!”


United States Department of Energy
Washington, D.C.

November 19, 2012


Citing the stubborn power outages in the five boroughs following Hurricane Sandy, U.S. Secretary of Energy Dr. Steven Chu joined New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to launch NYC POWER!, a comprehensive effort to transition residents from vulnerable fossil fuels-based electricity to renewable energy sources.

“The aftermath of Hurricane Sandy has laid bare New York City’s dependence on old-style electricity,” said Secretary Chu. “From this day forward, all homes and businesses will be encouraged to adopt clean and green energy sources such as wind, solar, and geothermal power.”

“For too long, we have operated a 21st century city with a 20th century energy mindset,” added Mayor Bloomberg. “We must not just rebuild — we must renew. If we don’t change, the climate will.”

Under NYC POWER!, utilities will be incentivized through tax credits to transition from dangerous and dirty energy sources such as oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear power. Financial penalties will be imposed on homes and businesses that rebuild on the old power grid. In the most extreme cases, prison sentences may be handed out to what Secretary Chu called “corporate energy hogs.”

Fuel stations, plagued by long lines caused by gasoline shortages, will be closed immediately and retrofitted to accommodate hybrid and biofuel-powered vehicles.

“Mr. Secretary and Mr. Mayor, thank you to you!” said New York Governor Andrew Cuomo. “You exemplify the spirit of partnership and the spirit of community. I pledge to coordinate and cooperate with you as we POWER! the Empire State into a bright, fossil fuel-free future.”


John K. Herr is a speechwriter and standup comedian. He has written for three Governors and four Cabinet secretaries, and served in the White House under two Presidents. His standup act has taken him to numerous states and cities, including Las Vegas for the World Series of Comedy. Herr also wrote jokes for former President George W. Bush. Follow him on Twitter: @jherricane.

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