NEW JERSEY – As the state marks Hurricane Preparedness month and the peak of hurricane season, New Jersey State Police Superintendent and State Director of Emergency Management Patrick J. Callahan and New Jersey Commissioner of Environmental Protection Shawn M. LaTourette Thursday reminded the public about the vital importance of being prepared as the risks from these powerful storms increase as a result of climate change.
“As we approach the 10-year anniversary of Superstorm Sandy and peak hurricane season begins, it is important to remember that preparedness is everyone’s responsibility, including those with special needs,” Callahan said. “Please make time with your family and significant others to assess your current preparedness plans, whether you need to shelter-in-place or evacuate. You can start by building an emergency kit, packing a family go-bag, and creating a crisis communication plan. The time to prepare is now.”
“We are so fortunate to live in a coastal state with many miles of beautiful beaches and rivers to enjoy,” LaTourette said. “But we must not for a second believe that rebuilding beaches and building seawalls and levees will protect us from every eventuality that climate change can throw our way. Weather events are becoming more extreme and unpredictable. Every one of us must become smarter about the growing risks of climate change and take necessary actions to better protect ourselves and each other.”
To be better prepared for imminent weather emergencies, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management recommends the following:
- Sign up for emergency alerts: Tune in, log-on, opt-in, ‘like’ or ‘follow’ state, county, local and federal agencies for credible disaster-related information such as alerts and warnings, situational awareness updates, and where to find help. Information on signing up can be found at https://nj.gov/njoem/
- Register Ready: RegisterReady.nj.gov, New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters allows New Jersey residents with disabilities or access and functional needs and their families, friends and associates an opportunity to provide information to emergency response agencies. This helps emergency responders better plan to serve them in a disaster or other emergency. The information collected here is confidential and will not be available to the public. The information will be held securely and only used for emergency response and planning.
- Make an emergency kit: Emergency kits will allow individuals and families to survive several days without access to food, water, or electricity. Emergency kits should include at least a 3-day to 5-day day supply of non-perishable food and water, prescription medications for up to two weeks if available, baby supplies, pet supplies and any additional items for special medical needs such as an extra pair of eyeglasses and batteries for hearing aids. Your kit should include important phone numbers for doctors as well as car cell-phone chargers.
- Make a family go-bag: While gathering your emergency kit, pack a go-bag for your family. This can be a duffle bag or gym bag that is easily accessible so you can grab it and go in the event of an emergency evacuation order. These bags should include items such as prescription medication, food, water, extra clothing, and copies of important documents and phone numbers to get you through the first few critical days. For information on how to put a family emergency kit together, visit ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/your-kit-plan.shtml
- Make an emergency plan: Make plans with family and friends in case you’re not together when any type of emergency – natural, technological, or man-made – occurs. Discuss how you will contact each other, where you will meet and what you will do in different situations. Become familiar with your town’s evacuation routes. For information on how to put a family emergency plan together, visit ready.nj.gov/plan-prepare/your-kit-plan.shtml. Pets are family too. Be sure to include them in your emergency plans by visiting animalemergency.nj.gov.
To become better prepared for increasing climate change risks, the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection recommends:
- Purchase flood insurance: Homeowners should purchase flood insurance to avoid paying out of pocket for flood damages. Most homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damages. Properties in the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA) are eligible for federal flood insurance through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) if their municipality participates in the program. In some cases, obtaining private flood insurance may be a good idea if homes are outside the SFHA but are experiencing, or may experience (due to impervious surface coverage or otherwise), significant flooding.
- Understand your flood risk: Flood risk across the state is growing because of climate change. Areas that have never flooded before may see significant flooding now or in the future. There are many online tools and resources available to help you better visualize the risk. These tools include NJFloodMapper, which can help you visualize flood hazard risk in the context of sea-level rise and extreme flooding events. Another is Resilient NJ: Local Planning for Climate Change Toolkit. Primarily directed toward local government officials, the toolkit can be used to inform climate resilience planning efforts, including completing a climate change-related hazard vulnerability assessment. Understanding a community’s vulnerability can help guide effective decision-making to prevent or eliminate flood risk.
- Consider a buy-out: If a home is experiencing repeated and severe flood damage, homeowners may want to consider moving to a lower-risk area. The Blue Acres program offers relocation assistance to families whose homes are subject to repeated flooding. Any homeowner interested in selling their property may submit an application to Blue Acres via the form on the Blue Acres website.
- Get DEP Weather Ready: The DEP also recently launched a “DEP Weather Ready” website, which provides resources that provides live weather information and National Weather Service social media posts, social media posts from government emergency response agencies, and links to DEP programs that are typically involved in preparing for and responding to storm events.
Resilience planning and disaster preparedness is most effective when the entire community is involved. Resilient NJ is the DEP’s flagship resilience planning program and has regular funding opportunities for regions and municipalities to receive technical resilience planning assistance to benefit the whole community.
“For homeowners, the first steps toward resilience include learning about Resilient NJ, contacting local officials to learn more about their municipality’s climate resilience planning efforts, and taking the time to see what resources may be available to them,” said New Jersey Chief Climate Resilience Officer Nicholas Angarone. “The true keys to resilience are preparedness and education.”