MIDDLESEX COUNTY – On Saturday, June 11, the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management partnered with the American Red Cross and the Salvation Army in a readiness drill to test their ability to open a regional shelter in the face of a weather disaster.
This exercise, held at Spotswood High School, was designed to test how the Red Cross would respond if a hypothetical Category 3 hurricane were to create a four-foot storm surge causing major flooding for East Coast cities such as Washington, Baltimore, New York, Boston and Portland.
It was part of a larger one being run by the American Red Cross to open regional shelters from Virginia to Maine. Middlesex County’s shelter was the only one in central New Jersey.
“Given the tornadoes, floods and wild fires that have devastated parts of our nation recently and with the start of hurricane season here on the East Coast, this exercise is not only timely, it is critical,” said Middlesex County Freeholder Director Christopher D. Rafano. “Planning, preparation and exercising are the best ways for us to ensure an effective and efficient response.”
“I cannot stress enough the importance of emergency and recovery preparedness,” said Freeholder Deputy Director Ronald G. Rios, chair of the county’s Law and Public Safety Committee. “Exercises like this will teach us to work together effectively with many community partners, so we can then put those skills to use when it matters most in a real emergency.”
Participants in the exercise included: members of the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army, the New Jersey Institute for Disabilities and New Jersey State Police, the Middlesex County Office of Emergency Management, the Middlesex County Public Health Department with the Medical Reserve Corp., The Middlesex County Human Services Department and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERT) from the towns of North Brunswick, Old Bridge, Perth Amboy, Sayreville and Woodbridge.
Red Cross officials dubbed Saturday’s imaginary storm “Hurricane EARL 2.0” after the 2010 hurricane that skimmed along the eastern seaboard last fall. The simulation portrayed Earl’s path moving 200 miles west as a Category 3 hurricane and as having significant impact throughout the region. The Earl 2.0 exercise left in its path numerous simulated injuries and deaths, in addition to the expected coastal and river flooding accompanied by widespread residential damage, disruptions to local infrastructure and services.
“Major hurricanes impacting the Northeast are thankfully infrequent, but it only takes one storm to create major damage,” said Virginia Hogan, Regional Emergency Services Director. “This hurricane exercise will help the Red Cross plan for the worse, even while we hope for the best this hurricane season.”
“Just as the Red Cross is getting ready for hurricane season, we’d like everyone in the State of New Jersey to take a few simple steps today to be better prepared,” said Hogan. “Now is an ideal time to update your family evacuation plan, make an emergency preparedness kit and get better prepared for the 2011 hurricane season. Preparation is the best protection against the dangers of a potential hurricane.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts that 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes will occur this year. The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season started June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
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