After Irene, Township Better Prepared for Emergencies
New trucks, a generator, ambulance van, and relationships bolster the town's preparedness.
Municipal and civic officials insist that should a storm similar to Tropical Storm Irene strike Wayne again, residents can expect a better level of response than they did last year.
“We’ve been very affected by emergency responsiveness and the ongoing effort to train personnel, purchase equipment, and keep the lines of communication open in house and with various support agencies we can go to,” said Tom Cantisano, deputy director of the town’s Office of Emergency Management.
Those agencies include The American Red Cross and the Salvation Army.
- The town has purchased new five-ton trucks to help evacuate residents during a flood.
- More than two-dozen people can sleep in a new ambulance van the town received earlier this year. It came equipped with a defibrillator, intravenous units, and other emergency equipment.
- A new generator is located at Kilroy Park. The facility will be used, as it was last year, as a shelter should residents need a place to stay during an emergency.
Residents criticized officials for not having a shelter up and running immediately after Irene hit last year.
- A new $9.5 million communications system allows police officers, firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians, and Department of Public Works personnel to speak to each other with greater clarity. The upgrades include changing from analog radios to digital units.
- There has been renewed interest in the township’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT). CERT members are trained in basic life-savings and rescue techniques.
But relationships are really the key to the improved response Cantisano talked about.
Wayne Volunteer Organizations Active in Disasters was founded about a week after Irene hit. At first, VOAD began by taking hot dinners to strangers who they thought could use a hot meal.
“We listened to them,” said Rev. Karyn Ratcliffe, VOAD’s chairwoman. “We didn’t go out and discover what the needs were, people just gave us information and told us where to go.”
The group has become a network of residents and officials who share information often about what the immediate needs of a particular group are during a crisis. The group has also created an incident action plan.
Councilwoman Lonni Miller Ryan formed the Wayne Long Term Recovery Group (WLRG) earlier this year. Another all-volunteer group, members are working with officials to help people with their flood insurance claims and other matters that involve a lot of paperwork and government involvement.
The group is in the process of establishing its not-for-profit status.
“It is a long, frustrating battle when you have to get on the phone and fight with your insurance company,” said Ryan, a legislative aide to Assemblyman Scott Rumana. “It reopens the wound and adds insult to injury. We hope more people will come to us so we can help them through the process.”
For more information about the WLRG, call Ryan at 973-237=1362. For more information about Wayne VOAD, visit the group’s website.