I don't live anywhere near the affected area from Sandy, but now that we've had some firsthand accounts, I wanted to throw in my $.02 as an observer from afar:
When the storm hit, I defaulted to the main stream news channels and sites, which got old and repetitive quickly without being very informative. To get a better feel for the local perspective, I resorted to my smart phone's 5-0 police radio app. By bouncing around and listening in on the various police, fire, and EMS dispatch feeds from Northeast counties and cities, I was able to get a better feel for the ground truth around the region and was also able to learn how "the authorities" prioritized their response to various incidents.
The first thing I will mention is that government at all levels is better prepared than most citizens. They have survival plans so that they can maintain operation, but that does not mean they will maintain services to citizens. This is probably obvious to most readers here, but I thought it was important to mention that the government is heavily invested in the survival business. They just won't put it in those terms.
The second thing I noticed was that mobility was severely limited for everything but foot traffic. Sometimes fire trucks could not respond to calls a few blocks away because of downed trees, water, and live power lines in the streets. Later on, some response vehicles who were isolated from their stations were taken out of commission because they simply ran out of gas and could not get back to fill up the tank.
The third thing I noticed was that looters were the lowest priority during and immediately after the storm. Responders called in suspicious characters from time to time, but most were too busy clearing roads, putting out fires, and fixing power line hazards to deal with looters. This makes sense when you consider that loss of life from fires and downed power lines is more important than the theft of Mr. Jones' big screen television.
I did hear one interesting call: I don't remember what city, but a fireman noticed three people walking in the storm wearing camouflage [uniforms]. I don't know who they were, but they were immediately considered a threat. If they were preppers, they need to learn to blend in. If they were looters, God bless them for putting a big police target on their own backs.
One final observation. This was not WWIII, and it would take something much bigger and of longer duration for things to degrade to that point. Many amateur preppers put a disproportionate emphasis on armaments, and then when disaster strikes, they lack basic creature comforts and have to go primitive or bug out. After Hurricane Sandy, which would you rather have had: a $2,000 tricked-out battle rifle or a decent generator and 50 gallons of gas? From what I've seen and read from afar, thanks to the lack of roving mobs, security during Sandy could be as easily maintained with a .38 Special revolver or even a baseball bat. After all, what's the point of being prepared for the the zombie apocalypse if it means you suffer more during less severe disasters?
Thank you James for running a site where normal people can find and share reasonable, balanced information on preparedness.
God Bless, - Robert in Texas