Ocean County Press Release
Residents And Visitors Need to Be Prepared;
2013 Hurricane Season Starts June 1

TOMS RIVER – Ocean County public safety officials are urging residents to be prepared as a new hurricane and summer storm season gets underway.

"While many parts of Ocean County continue to recover from the devastation brought by Superstorm Sandy, we cannot ignore the fact that we are entering another hurricane season," said Freeholder Director John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "Sandy certainly has increased our awareness and has taught us that being prepared is key to our safety."

The hurricane season begins June 1 and lasts until the end of November. The height of the season typically occurs in late August and during the month of September although tropical systems can develop off the Atlantic Coast late into the season like Sandy which came ashore on Oct. 29.

As part of helping citizens prepare the Ocean County Office of Emergency Management has been providing helpful tips that should be put in place now.

"Waiting for a weather event to happen is not the time to think about what to do," said Acting Sheriff William Sommeling, who oversees the Ocean County Office of Emergency Management. "I strongly suggest our residents and visitors go to our website which can be accessed from the Ocean County Homepage at www.co.ocean.nj.us and click on ‘Be Prepared,' the information is invaluable."

Annual preparations for the hurricane season include creating or updating a disaster supply kit. The kit should include a gallon of drinking water a day for each person and a battery-powered radio, which could become the sole source of information during an emergency.

In the event of a hurricane, the National Weather Service can usually provide up to five days of advanced warning, however being prepared could save a life.

"It is so important for every Ocean County resident and visitor to know how to handle these emergency situations," Kelly said. "Since our population grows dramatically in the summer time, special emphasis should be placed on the proper course of action during a hurricane to minimize any problems that can occur."

Officials urge residents to stay alert for and follow all directions they broadcast. Radio stations including WOBM 92.7-FM, WOBM 1160-AM, WJRZ 100.1 FM, WYRS 90.7 FM, WBBO 106.3, WBNJ 91.9, WBHX 107.1 and 99.7 FM all provide information on Ocean County.

In the event of an evacuation, like that which occurred during both Hurricane Irene in 2011 and Superstorm Sandy in 2012, it is recommended that essential items be brought along including prescription drugs and any special dietary foods.

If transportation is a problem, plan with neighbors beforehand to ensure assistance will be available. If needed, evacuation assistance can be obtained from the local municipal office of Emergency Management or the Ocean County Sheriff's Department, Office of Emergency Management.

Registration with the local police department is available ahead of time for Ocean County's "We Care" program.

"If you or a loved one needs special assistance during any evacuation such as the bed bound, sight or hearing impaired, wheelchair capable, dialysis, oxygen dependent or other challenges, the "We Care" program can assist," Sommeling said.

"We advise all residents not to wait for an official or law enforcement officer to personally notify you to evacuate. It is best to give yourself enough time to make it out safely," Sommeling added. "Staying at home could put yourself and your family at risk of getting trapped, making it more difficult for rescuers to reach you."

Kelly noted visitors and citizens who have pets need to establish a plan to get their animals to safety should there be a call for an evacuation.

"During Sandy, so many residents left animals behind believing they would be returning to their homes in just a few days," Kelly said. "However, those few days became weeks in some instances.

"With the assistance of the Humane Society and the SPCA numerous pet rescues took place in the days following the storm. And, while some evacuation shelters will accommodate animals not all do. So it is imperative to plan in advance," Kelly said.

Advisories to stay alert for are a "hurricane watch" and a "hurricane warning." A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions are possible within the watch area, generally within the next thirty-six hours. A hurricane warning is then announced when conditions are expected within the warning area, usually within the next twenty-four hours.

Serious storms may require a mandatory or voluntary evacuation. Officials will not order an evacuation unless it is absolutely necessary.

"We recommend residents and visitors become familiar with the telephone numbers for their municipality's Office of Emergency Management," said Sommeling. "Good information and correct information is imperative when it comes to weather emergencies."

Sommeling noted that people should refrain from calling the emergency 911 number unless it is a true emergency.

"Our 911 dispatchers answered almost 18,000 calls from Oct. 28 to Nov. 3, during the height of the Superstorm." Sommeling said. "911 operators are there to assist during life threatening situations. It is not to provide general information.

"Our local emergency management offices can provide citizens with information such as which evacuation route to take, where public shelters are located, which ones accept animals," Kelly said. "They do a great job in assisting during difficult times."

Emergency management officials caution visitors and residents from venturing outside during a hurricane. Blowing debris can cause serious injury and traveling is highly discouraged.

It is also recommended that people remain sheltered after a hurricane until an announcement has been made that it is safe to leave.

"It is imperative to be prepared for storms," Kelly said. "Being prepared and heeding warnings can make all the difference for our safety."

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