Get ready!

Officials urge preparedness as hurricane season begins

By Keith Loria, Special Writer
   June 1 marked the start of Hurricane Season on the East Coast, and based on the prediction by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2013 will be an “above normal and possibly extremely active” season.
   In fact, local meteorologists believe the confluence of warm tropical waters and the slim chance of a cyclone-suppressing El Niño event may fuel as many as three to six major hurricanes over the course of the summer.
   As Super Storm Sandy demonstrated, it doesn’t take a Category 5 hurricane to cause tragic damage, it only takes it striking down in the right location. Last year’s storms definitely got people’s attention and people want to know how best to be prepared.
   Princeton Mayor Liz Lempert encourages residents to add their cell phone numbers to the town’s mass notification system, especially if their land lines require power and stop working during an outage. You can sign up online at
   ”Typically the town will ask residents to shelter in place,” Mayor Lempert says. “That means having supplies on hand to keep you safe and comfortable, including: water, one gallon of water per person per day for at least three days, for drinking and sanitation; food, at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food; battery-powered or hand crank radio; flashlight and extra batteries; and a first aid kit.”
   Council member Patrick Simon is heading up an Emergency Preparedness Task Force to draw on lessons learned from Sandy and Irene in order to prepare an updated emergency plan for the consolidated town.
   ”With consolidation, we are in a better position to focus on protecting and serving our residents without having the extra burden on communicating between police departments and public works departments,” Mayor Lempert says.
   A recent survey by the American Red Cross and the Weather Channel revealed that about half of New Jersey and New York coastal residents are likely to take action to prepare, due to what happened in past years.
   Results of the survey show that 56 percent of New Jersey and New York coastal respondents were very or somewhat concerned they could be in harm’s way of a hurricane in 2013. Still, it seems like people haven’t begun preparing.
   ”New Jersey has been hit with hurricanes in the past two years with Irene in 2011 and Sandy in 2012, and we urge people here to get ready now for the 2013 hurricane season,” Dennis McNulty, director of disaster services, American Red Cross North Jersey Region, said in a prepared statement. “People can create a family evacuation plan, get needed supplies and medications, and download a free Red Cross hurricane app.”
   Things that people should have at the ready include emergency supplies of water, food and medicine, plus copies of important documents and special items for children and pets. There should also be a family plan on how to communicate in the case of an emergency, including establishing a meeting place out of harm’s way.
   Another must is a battery-powered radio so people can listen to the news and find out updated information as much as possible. AM radio can be picked up much better than FM.
   Those with medical issues also need to take special precautions to make sure that they remain healthy during a storm.
   ”One of the major things that people can do is to be prepared as much as they can,” says Dave Henry, health officer with the Princeton Health Department. “If they are on medication, they should have a good supply of medication with them, whether they have to stay at home or go to a heating or cooling center.”
   People often leave their home quickly and often forget to take their medication with them during an emergency. It’s a good idea to keep a list of what you need, prescriptions and medicine, in a bag that can be grabbed easily as you leave the home.
   ”We learned a lot here in Princeton, where we have had two to three extensive power outages in the last couple of years,” Dr. George Di Ferdinando, Princeton Health Department’s chair, says. “What we learned from these events is people who needed electric plug-in medical support — supplemental oxygen, machines for sleep apnea, people on dialysis, etc.— didn’t have a backup plan.”
   Mr. Henry urges people that if and when a storm does happen to follow good common sense and not go out in the storm to prevent injuries. Don’t drive in flooded areas, use generators properly (at least 25 feet away from the house), and refrain from removing debris or fallen trees until the storm has passed.
   Those with smartphones also can download the Red Cross free disaster-specific mobile apps — particularly the Hurricane and First Aid apps — to get lifesaving preparedness information in the palm of your hand before and during emergencies. Red Cross apps can be found in the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross or by going to