In today's modern society, with its interconnected and expensive infrastructure, everyone will have to rely on government and corporations (such as utilities) to repair and reopen certain critical architecture. However, as Katrina illustrated, and as Sandy is showing, it is foolish to expect government to provide the short term emergency assistance you may need.
1. Government and other aid
organizations may simply not come. We saw this in Katrina where outside
aid was actually prohibited from entering New Orleans for several days
due to rumors (perpetuated by the mass media) of violence. However, like
many of the smaller communities impacted by Katrina, government may
simply ignore your plight. Such, unfortunately, seems to be the fate of
those on Staten Island. (ABC News story, and NBC video (via Business Insider)).
Government may stand in the way of assistance. As mentioned above,
there was the direct refusal to allow aid into New Orleans after
Katrina. However, there is sometimes the insidious delays and roadblocks
cast up by regulations. After the BP Gulf oil spill, you may remember,
federal regulations prohibited ships with foreign crews from operating
in U.S. waters, even though those ships and crews had special equipment
specifically designed to clean up oil spills like we faced. Those
regulations were to protect union jobs. Similarly, we same the same
issue here, where nonunion Alabama utility crews were turned away from helping out in New Jersey.
Government assistance (or lack thereof) are at the whim of politicians
and their priorities. Thus, despite the devastation in New York City, Mayor "No Big Gulp for You" Bloomburg plans on going ahead with the New York Marathon, diverting police resources, and even generators, away from needed recovery efforts.