Report Number HR-AR-13-009
Hurricane Sandy on October 29, 2012, caused billions of dollars in damages on the eastern seaboard, including about $39.6 million in total costs and damages to the U.S. Postal Service. In the wake of this national disaster, we assessed the Postal Service’s efforts to protect employees, mail, and other assets in the storm’s immediate aftermath and whether the Postal Service’s Address Management System (AMS) could benefit other agencies in response to future national emergencies. The AMS contains a National Change of Address process that allows customers to update their addresses.
The Postal Service’s Hurricane Preparedness Guide requires the Postal Service to ensure emergency actions for a given location are consistent with guidance from state and local authorities. Hurricane plans must include local decision points and associated actions, such as a local authority ordering an evacuation.Postal Service policy requires managers to evaluate the need to evacuate or close facilities depending on information received via radio or public service address and information provided by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Although most of the 27 locations assessed during our review implemented proper emergency plans, we found that some did not properly follow procedures. Employees showed up to work at sites located in evacuation zones and some had operations running before conducting the proper safety assessments. However, we did find that the Postal Service’s AMS could benefit other agencies in response to future national emergencies by allowing customers to update addresses using a National Change of Address process.
The Postal Service identified lessons learned from Hurricane Sandy and has begun taking action to better prepare for future natural disasters. For example, management has implemented a process of information sharing with stations and post offices and requires local installation managers to update employee contact numbers on the first of every month. They have also conducted service talks on procedures for safeguarding accountable mail. These actions should improve future responses to hurricanes and other national emergencies.