TOMS RIVER – As this year's hurricane season begins, Ocean County officials are urging residents to prepare ahead of time.
While the hurricane season begins June 1, the threat of potential hurricanes traditionally increases late in the summer months with a relatively high incidence of hurricanes 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 at any point.
"We have learned many valuable lessons from Superstorm Sandy which devastated the area in October of 2012," said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "We know that being prepared is the key to our safety and taking the time to make sure you have a plan in case of an emergency could be lifesaving if disaster strikes."
According to the National Weather Service, the primary hazards of a hurricane are storm surge flooding, inland flooding from heavy rains, destructive winds, tornadoes, and high surf and rip currents.
"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 Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. Mastronardy. "Knowing how to prepare before a storm, how to take action as the storm approaches and even knowing what to do during a storm 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 would provide 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," Kelly said. "It will not only help our residents who may need assistance but it will also provide information to emergency responders 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.
"The Ocean County Office of Emergency Management under the direction of Sheriff Mastronardy does a great job providing resources during an emergency," Kelly said. "Residents should also keep up on the National Weather Service and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration for information as the hurricane risk heightens."
Advisories to stay alert for are a "hurricane watch" and a "hurricane warning." A hurricane watch is issued when hurricane conditions including sustained winds of 74 miles per hour or greater are possible within 48 hours. A hurricane warning is issued when the conditions are expected within 36 hours. In coastal or near-coastal areas, a hurricane warning can remain in effect when dangerously high water and exceptionally high waves continue even though the wind may have subsided below hurricane intensity.
Emergency management officials 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 to leave.
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.
The Ocean County Health Department encourages residents to do their homework in preparation for storms to prevent being caught off guard. 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.
Ocean County Freeholder Director Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health, emphasized the importance on preparing early instead of waiting until it is too late.
"Residents can use the Health Department's Emergency Preparedness Disaster Tips pamphlet as a guideline for their own preparations," Little said. "It is a great starting point to make sure your family is aware of the steps to take in case of an emergency."
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.