In the last several years, Cherry Hill and New Jersey as a whole have experienced our share of emergency events, from significant snowstorms a few winters ago, to Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy in 2011 and 2012.
Each event hit Cherry Hill with a different degree of severity; but each one affected people’s lives in pockets of our community for days – and, in the case of Sandy, for almost two weeks.
On the whole, our community has been fortunate. But our brushes with Mother Nature have taught us one critically important lesson: We must always be ready to face the worst-case scenario. Whether we’re up against a few days without electricity, or forced to evacuate our homes entirely, a little foresight can help to minimize the impact on ourselves and our loved ones.
With that in mind, the Ready Campaign and the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) have designated September as National Preparedness Month. Cherry Hill Township and the Cherry Hill Office of Emergency Management are committed helping spread this important message throughout our community, encouraging our own residents and businesses to be prepared.
The rule of thumb is to plan to be self-reliant for three days, without utilities, electricity, water service, access to supermarkets, pharmacies, and other local services.
Preparing starts with a few easy but important steps:
• Be informed. Identify sources of community information that will be helpful before, during and after an emergency.
o Monitor the Township website (www.CherryHill-NJ.com) for news and emergency alerts and other important information. Sign up for email alerts by going to www.CherryHill-NJ.com/list.aspx and selecting “Mayor’s Briefings,” “Cherry Hill Headlines” and “Emergency Alerts.”
o Follow Cherry Hill Township (@cherryhilltwp), the Cherry Hill Police Department (@cherryhillpd), and the Cherry Hill Fire Department (@cherryhillfire) on Facebook and Twitter for more frequent updates, especially during an event. Our sites are all public and can be viewed regardless of whether you have your own Facebook or Twitter account.
o Monitor the Cherry Hill School District public access channel, CHPS TV, on Comcast Channel 19, or Verizon FIOS Channel 24.
• Make a plan. Before disaster strikes, talk to your family about what you might do in different situations. Decide how you’ll relocate, if necessary, and how you will reunite and communicate with your family if you become separated. Go to www.ready.gov/make-a-plan for links to a Family Emergency Plan template and Emergency Contact Cards that you can fill out and give to your children.
• Build an emergency supply kit. Once again, www.ready.gov/build-a-kit contains helpful links and check lists to ensure you are adequately prepared with basics such as water, food, batteries and first-aid supplies, as well as items that may not see as obvious, like a car charger for your cell phone. Remember that every family is unique, and your plan should reflect your own personal needs. Families with infants may need extra supplies such a diapers or infant formula; those with pets should be sure to pack food and fresh water, and make plans for Fido to stay with a friend or relative outside the area in the event you are sent to a shelter. More importantly, be sure to account for the needs of any family members who need medication or specialized medical equipment, and those with special needs or mobility issues.
• Get involved. When disaster strikes, our first instinct is often to say, “How can I help?” Visit www.ready.gov/get-involved to find ways you can contribute to the community, and support emergency-relief organizations before, during and after an event. Preparedness takes a whole community.
The bottom line is that we never know when disaster will strike. Putting the right plans and resources in place when the weather is warm and the sun is shining can help minimize the impact to you and your loved ones.
Visit Ready.gov for more valuable information; if you have additional questions or concerns, the Cherry Hill Office of Emergency Management can be reached at (856) 432-8836, or firstname.lastname@example.org.