Past hurricanes teach county how to prepare

Hurricanes Sandy and Irene taught Burlington County how to prepare for the unexpected when it comes to serious weather.

The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, and New Jersey’s tropical storm activity runs typically from August through late October, according to the New Jersey Hurricane Survival Guide.

Hurricane Irene hit the state in August 2011, and Sandy was a late-season storm, making landfall at the end of October.

According to Kevin Tuno, Burlington County Office of Emergency Management coordinator, Hurricane Irene had a larger impact on the county compared to Sandy, which affected communities closer to the bay, including Bass River and Washington Township.

“The biggest thing is promoting more of an awareness to residents,” Tuno said, adding residents need to heed warnings and properly prepare for a serious weather event.

Make a plan, prepare a kit

When the Weather Channel and local news stations begin broadcasting the possibility of a hurricane, go over your emergency plan.

According to the hurricane survival guide, get together with your family and create a communications plan ahead of time. Keep a written record of all important phone numbers and designate an individual outside the state to serve as a family point of contact. Make sure family members know who this person is and how to contact them. After a disaster or evacuation, all family members should make contact with the designated individual. Try choosing a certain time for everyone to check in.

Additionally, a family should have a kit prepared. Build it up over a period of time, Tuno recommends.

“You can go online to a number of different locations and find kits already made,” Tuno said. “By the time you’re done, you’ll be well prepared, especially if you need to stay in your home a number of days.”

Visit Ready.gov and search disaster kit for checklists to help prepare.

Preparing your home

Tuno suggests residents have supplies on hand for a minimum of 72 hours.

“At this point, I suggest doubling that,” Tuno said. “You should have nonperishable food, food that you may not have to cook if you lose electricity and have an electric stove.”

Additionally, there needs to be enough water, one gallon per person per day, in the event water supply becomes unavailable, especially in rural areas.

“Most of the time, water contamination happens because there’s failure to water treatment plants or in a rural area when wells in the yard get flooded out,” Tuno said. “You have a possibility of your well being contaminated by the septic tank.”

He advises residents to boil water and be aware of water advisories. If residents are forced to boil water, be sure to do it for 10 minutes.

Fresh batteries, portable radios and flashlights should also be available.

“You should also have extra batteries on hand for any items other than flashlights or radio if the kids have something that needs to be charged,” Tuno said.

According to Tuno, various stores sell items to keep phones and other electronics charged through a hand crank.

“Keep extra medications on hand or get some immediately through a doctor or pharmacist if you have the ability to,” Tuno said.

Shelter preparation

Burlington County shelters hosted approximately 400 people from Ocean County, most of whom came without dry clothes, towels or toiletries due to flooding and the emergency situation.

“Most shelters don’t come equipped with towels or clothes for people,” Tuno said. “Luckily we were able to get towels and warm clothes for the people that came. We got some towels from correctional facilities and hospitals the next day.”

Tuno notes it’s hard to be sure if there are going to be cots or blankets and pillows.

“We suggests blankets, pillows, medications, personal hygiene and a change of clothes,” Tuno said.

Additionally, come with snacks and bottles of water in case food and water haven’t arrived yet.

Elderly, pets

Don’t forget about the elderly and your pets.

“If the storm is touted to be severe for this area, family members, if you have elderly, should convince them to stay with you until the storm is over,” Tuno said. “They should bring whatever they need medicine wise to be self sufficient for a number of days.”

Pets need a plan as well. Be sure to have a supply of food and medication on hand.

“If you have a pet and have to go to a shelter, make sure it’s pet friendly,” Tuno said. “When we establish shelters here in Burlington County, we have certain shelters as pet friendly shelters. You may not be able to be with them overnight, but we allow them.”

For more information on how to plan, important links and additional material on how to plan, visit www.co.burlington.nj.us/upload/Emerg_Mgmt/Images/081412_hurricane_surviveguide.pdf.