TOMS RIVER – The Ocean County Board of Chosen Freeholders gave assurances to the public on Wednesday that county government is prepared for hurricanes and storms.
"We are all watching the news and have seen what Hurricane Harvey did in Houston and we are carefully watching Hurricane Irma," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari during the Sept. 6 Board meeting. "I want to assure the residents that our departments are ready to respond should a hurricane or severe storm come our way."
Ocean County is no stranger to storm preparedness with Hurricane Irene making landfall in Little Egg Harbor Township in August 2011 and Superstorm Sandy causing massive devastation on Oct. 29, 2012.
"Our Office of Emergency Management, under Sheriff Michael Mastronardy, along with our security department and other public safety agencies are keeping a close eye on any developments that may come from the storms that are now out in the tropics," said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "And, while the County stands prepared it's imperative our residents do the same.
"Don't wait for a storm to hit," Kelly said. "Prepare now, even if it never affects us, at least you and your family have the security of being prepared."
Ocean County Freeholder Gerry P. Little, who serves as liaison to the Ocean County Health Department, said that agency plays a key role in helping during disasters.
"The department has a mobile medical unit and a host of other resources that can help residents during times of disaster," he said. "The department's Medical Reserve Corp are well trained volunteers that are called into service during emergencies."
He noted the county's Road Department, Vehicle Services and Solid Waste Management also are prepared for emergencies.
The height of hurricane season typically occurs in late August and during the month of September although tropical systems can develop at any point.
"The importance of taking the time to prepare a plan in case of an emergency could be lifesaving if disaster strikes," Vicari said. "We have learned many valuable lessons from Superstorm Sandy. We know that being prepared is key to our safety."
The National Weather Service can usually provide up to five days of advance warning in the event of a hurricane, but storm preparation and Emergency Operations Plans should be established well in advance.
"As a coastal area, it is imperative that residents and visitors of Ocean County are aware of the risks that are faced during a hurricane, tropical storm or a nor'easter," said Sheriff Mastronardy. "Knowing what type of hazards your family may face, what you need to bring with you, and where you will go are all types of questions to think about to be better prepared in case of danger."
Every home should have a portable Disaster Supplies Kit at all times, which should be updated every six months. The kit should include: a gallon of drinking water a day for each person, prescription drugs and special dietary foods, a supply of non-perishable foods, a first aid kit, a battery powered radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
In addition to having a Disaster Supplies Kit, it is important to have Animal Supply Kits and Take-Along Bags for service animals and pets. Pet kits should include: a two-week supply of water and food, non-spill food and water dishes, cage/carrier labeled with contact information, favorite toys and treats, leash, collar and harness, litter, litter pan, paper towels and plastic baggies, and pet medication.
It is also advised to make sure that your pets and service animals have current ID tags, and that their vaccinations are current. A plan as to how your pets will be cared for if you have to evacuate, as well as keeping them confined or securely leashed during or after a disaster will help them from being confused or frightened.
Furthermore, officials encourage residents with disabilities or access and functional needs to sign up for Register Ready. Register Ready is New Jersey's Special Needs registry for disasters that provides information to emergency response agencies so emergency responders can better plan to serve them in a disaster or other emergency.
"Register Ready is a free, voluntary program that allows for extra preparation in the case of a major emergency," Vicari said. "It will not only help our residents that our seniors and those with special needs, but it will also provide information so that residents could be checked on during weather events."
To register online, go to www.ready.nj.gov and click on the Register Ready icon at the bottom of the page.
If you are evacuated to a shelter, it is recommended to bring blankets/sleeping bags/pillows, change of clothes, cash/credit card/checkbook, family documents, birth certificates, insurance policies, stock certificates, medicine and prescription drugs, infant formula/food, special dietary foods and diapers.
"I can't emphasize enough that now is the time to prepare no matter what the weather forecast," Kelly said. "The Ocean County Office of Emergency Management does a great job providing resources during an emergency.
"Residents should also keep up on the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for information as the risk of hurricanes heightens," Kelly said.
Emergency management officials also caution visitors and residents from venturing outside during a hurricane. Blowing debris can cause serious injury and traveling is highly discouraged until an announcement has been made that it is safe.
A comprehensive list of hurricane-related resources for residents can be accessed by visiting www.ochd.org or by following the Health Department on Twitter @OCpublichealth. An Emergency Preparedness Disaster Tips pamphlet is also available throughout the county including the Health Department located at 175 Sunset Ave., here, and the County Connection at the Ocean County Mall, here.
Information on emergency preparedness can also be found on the Ocean County Government webpage at www.co.ocean.nj.us and by clicking on the ‘Be Prepared' link. This is a special area on the website dedicated to emergency management. Residents can get up to the minute updates on emergencies in the county before, during and after a storm.