TOMS RIVER – With this year's hurricane season underway, Ocean County officials are urging residents to be prepared.
While the hurricane season began 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.
"The importance of taking the time to make sure that you have a plan in case of an emergency could be lifesaving if disaster strikes," said Ocean County Freeholder Director Joseph H. Vicari. "We have learned many valuable lessons from Superstorm Sandy which devastated the area in late October of 2012. We know that being prepared is the 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 Ocean County Sheriff Michael G. 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 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," 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.
"The Office of Emergency Management does a great job providing resources during an emergency," said Ocean County Freeholder John P. Kelly, Director of Law and Public Safety. "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 are possible within the watch area, generally within the next 48 hours. A hurricane warning is then announced when conditions are expected within the warning area, usually within the next 36 hours.
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.
"I can't emphasize enough that now is the time to prepare before we get into the heart of the hurricane season because then it may just be too late," said Ocean County Freeholder Deputy Director Gerry P. Little, liaison to the Ocean County Board of Health.
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.
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.