STATE — New Jersey Health Commissioner Mary O’Dowd today presented 21 County Emergency Medical Services (EMS) Coordinators with portable radios to ensure 24/7 communication when landline and cellphone systems fail.
“September is National Preparedness Month, and we want our emergency responders to have the resources they need to respond to public health emergencies,” said O’Dowd. “We are making these radios available to ensure that counties can communicate with residents, hospitals and nursing homes within their borders as fast as possible in an emergency.”
Currently, each of the state’s 21 counties has one hand-held, two-way, walkie-talkie radio that is linked into the statewide 800 MHz radio system. A second 800 MHz radio in each county will enhance communication with other counties, the Department of Health and the New Jersey State Police. During public health emergencies, county EMS coordinators have to cover large geographic areas, coordinating evacuations of homes, hospitals and nursing homes, establishing medical shelters and answering 9-1-1 calls.
The $118,000 in funding to purchase the radios was provided by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services’ Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and marks the first use of SSBG funds by the state Health Department for New Jersey’s EMS System. The Department of Health has also used SSBG funding for a West Nile virus public education campaign to remind the public to protect themselves against West Nile Virus by wearing insect repellent and removing standing water from their property.
“Communications among the county EMS coordinators and their deputies, in assessing and addressing the needs of the first responders and their back-up support resources are critical in times of emergencies,” said Sheriff Shaun Golden, whose agency runs the Monmouth County Office of Emergency Management. “This additional portable radio will link the county coordinators and their deputies to the statewide 800 MHz radio system enabling them to better directly coordinate statewide emergency responses to their needs.”
Along with preparations by the state to response to a large scale crisis, the Department is urging residents to be ready and prepared for the next emergency by taking precautions and steps to protect themselves and their families:
- Have an emergency kit
- Make an emergency plan
- Stay informed
Have an emergency kit: Everyone should be prepared to have enough supplies for several days. Emergency kits should include the basics for survival including non-perishable food, water, medicine (both over-the-counter and prescription, if possible), flashlight, transistor radio, batteries, phone chargers, baby supplies and other special medical needs.
For an extensive list of how to put a family emergency kit together, visit http://nj.gov/health/er/documents/kit.pdf.
Make an emergency plan: Families should have an emergency plan that includes all family members and friends in case family members are separated when an emergency occurs. Plans should spell out how to contact each other, where everyone will meet and what to do in various situations.
An emergency plan should also include a comprehensive contact list that includes school and health care information as well as family information. Make sure this list is updated often as cell phone numbers may change.
Learn how to use a generator safely: Portable generators are useful when temporary or remote electric power is needed, but they can be hazardous. The primary hazards to avoid when using them are carbon monoxide poisoning, electric shock or electrocution, and fire. Always follow manufacturer guidelines and learn how use generators safely. http://www.usfa.fema.gov/citizens/co/generator.shtm
More information on disaster preparedness is available at the New Jersey State Office of Emergency Management’s website: http://www.state.nj.us/njoem/ and on the State Department of Health’s website: http://www.state.nj.us/health/news/2012/approved/20120914a.html
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