Be Prepared, Disaster Experts Warn
Community College Citizen Preparedness Program officials host forum to encourage residents to be ready for the next Hurricane Sandy.
More than 100 area residents turned out for Wednesday night’s Community College Citizen Preparedness Program (3CP2) to learn disaster preparedness techniques from specially trained experts.
Police Departments from Verona, Cedar Grove, Essex Fells and North Caldwell teamed up with the Essex County College Police Academy at the Verona Community Center to help residents prepare and teach them skills for surviving hundred-year storms much like the recent Hurricane Sandy or Hurricane Irene.
“After Irene I began waterproofing and took out all of my photos and everything irreplaceable,” said Verona resident Bari Weissenborn, referring to her Mantoloking house. “I was very well prepared for Hurricane Sandy but I still got 2½ feet of water in my house.”
Weissenborn attended to better prepare herself for disasters and learn about what to do in various types of situations.
The C3P2 program was made possible by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant given to 124 other community colleges across the United States. The overall goal is to train 500,000 people, said Rocco Miscia, director of the Essex County College Police Academy.
“Irene and Sandy have made this a very popular program,” he said.
Retired Essex County Sergeant and Deputy Coordinator of the Essex County Office of Emergency Management Rich Colabelli introduced the group to many different systems and types of disasters.
NIMS, The National Incident Management System, is a national management program followed by all first responders. NIMS, said Colabelli, is also a program which everyone should be a part of.
“You have a responsibility to protect yourself and your family by knowing what to do before during and after an event,” he said. “First responders are the real heroes and are always the first ones out when something happens.”
However, they make up only about one percent of our nation's population, he said. Because of that, homeowners should know what to do in any situation and be prepared to help themselves for the first 72 hours following a disaster.
According to the presentation, those affected should be ready to be self-sufficient for a minimum of three days and depending on the type of the disaster, possibly several days. Basic necessities include food, water and medicine.
Expect the Unexpected
“Earthquakes and tornados are not common here but that does not mean they cannot happen,” said Colabelli. “New Jersey is on the coast, so don't think a tsunami is not possible."
New Jersey also lies along the Rampo Fault Line, which is similar to fault lines in California that cause earthquakes.
“When you are uncertain and your phones are working, call the township, know where your shelters are and know the numbers, whether its the township, police or office of emergency management,” said Colabelli.
But natural disasters are not the only thing to prepare for. Area residents should also realize terrorism is a very real threat.
Essex County, in particular, is a vulnerable area because of its relationship to New York City, Newark Liberty International and JFK airports, Penn Station and major highways.
“Anyone who thinks we will never get attacked again is living in a vacuum,” said Colabelli. “Don't be a pessimist but think about worst case scenarios and prepare for them. You don't want to think about what you should have done.”
How Do I Prepare?
A great way to stay informed is to sign up for the local NIXLE alert system, which sends out emails and text messages during emergencies. Both Verona and Cedar Grove utilize the system, which is free and simple to set up.
Colabelli said everyone should be prepared with a “go-bag” filled with vital survival items and have it stored at home or at work as well as in a car.
Colabelli shared his personal go-bag, which consisted of a sealable plastic container with:
- Snuggie or small blanket
- work gloves
- glow sticks
- individually wrapped snacks like granola or power bars
- toilet paper
- wool hat
- flashlight and batteries
- hand sanitizer
- One gallon of water per person for 72 hours
- Wind up or solar AM/FM radio
- A multi-tool device
- spare medications
- pet food
- important papers, copies of prescriptions or insurance information
- first aid kit
“Familiarize yourself with how to use your equipment before you need to use it,” one resident suggested.
Know Your Disasters
According to officials involved in the C3P2 program, there are three main types of disasters: Natural, Technological and Artificial/Manmade (see chart below).
Knowing what to do in many of these situations is common sense, said Colabelli. In a tornado or hurricane, it is not smart to stay in an upper floor of a home or building, especially if it has many windows. That being said, a basement would not be the best place to go for a flood.
In the event of a hazardous material release, go into a room that can be easily sealed off whether it is liquid or airborne.
“Discuss your plan with family members and act quickly to follow instructions of police, fire or other officials,” said Colabelli. “Before making any last minute preparations, be absolutely sure you have time. Don't wait until the last minute hoping to save your possessions.”
Should I Stay or Should I Go?
“If you are told to evacuate, evacuate!” said Colabelli. “Possessions can be replaced, your life cannot.”
Colabelli offered the following additional information:
♦ Know your emergency shelters. Stay in contact with local emergency officials and know whether you can bring your pets. In Essex County, the Turtle Back Zoo in West Orange has an animal hospital that can be used as a temporary emergency shelter for pets, he said.
Many people went down to their Shore houses or stayed behind when told to evacuate during Hurricane Sandy, said Colabelli. Emergency responders then had to risk their lives to save people who did not follow instructions.
♦ Shelter in place means to make a shelter out of the place you are in. Whether you are at work, school or home, stay where you are. Shelter in place by picking a large room with little or no windows with a water supply.
♦ A lockdown is an emergency protocol to prevent people or information from escaping. It is used to protect people inside a facility. Never go outside during a lockdown, said Colabelli.
♦ If the situation calls for evacuation use care when traveling. Avoid flooded roads and watch for washed out bridges, undermined roadways, landslides, fallen rocks, downed power lines, floating hazards, fallen trees and always assume that wires are live.
|Type of Disasters:||
Includes These Events:
hurricane, earthquake, fire, tsunami, avalanche, coastal erosion, flash floods, hail, ice storms, lightning and anything else that occurs in nature
|Technological Disasters||hazardous material spill, power disruption or breaking dams|
|Artificial or Manmade Events||shootings or terrorism, whether chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear or explosive.|
How do you prepare yourself and your family for an emergency? What did you learn from Hurricane Sandy? Tell Verona-Cedar Grove Patch in comments.