Are You Prepared For a Hurricane Or Other Disasters?

September is National Preparedness Month (NPM) and a good time to plan what you and your family would need should you have to leave your home or stay in place due to a hurricane or another disaster.

The goal of NPM is to encourage Americans to take steps to prepare for emergencies throughout the year. “Although we cannot always know when and where a disaster will hit, we can ensure that we are ready,” said  Freeholder Mark Caliguire, public health and safety liaison. “Residents are encouraged to recognize the importance of preparedness and dedicate September to doing whatever is necessary to ensure that their families are safe in an emergency.”

Locally, this event is being jointly promoted by the Somerset County Department of Health, Office of Emergency Management and Public Information Office.

“It’s important to raise awareness of the importance of being prepared with a plan and an emergency supplies kit since hurricane season runs from June through November in New Jersey,” said Freeholder Caliguire. “Although we are all very busy, I urge you to find the time.  Doing so can make a huge difference in your health, comfort and meeting basic needs during the first few days after a disaster, until organized rescue efforts can be put into place.

“This is a call to action to all county residents to think ahead and look beyond batteries and flashlights when making emergency preparedness plans,” said Freeholder Caliguire. “Your preparations should include purchasing non-perishable food items, planning ways to feed your family should you lose electricity and making sure that you have necessary medications for your entire family, including your pets.”

Whether it's a hurricane or another natural disaster, it's critical to understand basic food and water safety, particularly if power outages or flooding occur. Having a plan in place will ensure proper nutrition, energy to take care of yourself and your family, and long-term wellness.

During an emergency you can still provide healthy and delicious meals for your family by following these tips for stocking your pantry and planning an emergency menu:

·      Know the safe storage temperatures for perishable food. If the power goes out, keep the refrigerator and freezer doors closed as much as possible. If unopened, a refrigerator will keep food cold for about four hours.  A freezer will maintain its temperature for about 48 hours if it's full and 24 hours if it's half full. If possible, buy a refrigerator and freezer thermometer so you can be sure that the temperatures are safe.

·      Stock up on condiments such as ketchup, mustard, soy sauce and barbeque sauce. These items have a long shelf life and are versatile in making foods taste better. Make sure your pantry has canned products that will provide you with protein (such as chicken, salmon, beans and peanut butter) and that you have a manual can opener.

·      Keep boxes of powdered milk or shelf-stable cartons of milk that can be used for cereal or desserts. Dried fruits, nuts and spices are easy to store and can add a dash of flavor to otherwise bland dishes during an emergency.

Invitations were extended to Somerset County businesses, day care/preschools, faith-based and community organizations to participate in the NPM effort by setting up table displays of items needed in an emergency supplies kit.  Participating groups received free resources such as brochures on emergency preparedness in both English and Spanish and a poster from the Somerset County Health Department to aid in promoting National Preparedness Month.

The following Somerset County organizations will have displays with resources for the public to take:  Kings Supermarket in Bedminster; Liberty Corner Presbyterian Church in Bernardsville; Green Brook Academy in Bound Brook; Kangaroo Kids in Branchburg; Bridgewater Costco, Bridgeway Senior Healthcare, Green Knoll Care and Rehabilitation Center, Catholic Charities-Children's Mobile Response Unit,  Childtime Childcare Center, Catholic Charities of Metuchen, Learning Gate Day Care Center, Rite Aid Pharmacy, Stellar Academy, Wegmans Supermarket, Centerbridge Senior Housing I & II and The Preschool Place in Bridgewater; Stellar Academy, Bridgeway Senior Healthcare and Christian Nurturing Center  in Hillsborough; The Arc of Somerset County and Jerry Davis Early Childhood Center in Manville; North Branch Reformed Church Preschool; Glad Tidings Church of God of Prophecy and McAuley School in North Plainfield.

Also, Learning Gate Day Care Center in Raritan; New Roads School of Somerset, Walgreen's Pharmacy and Rite Aid Pharmacy on Hamilton Street in Somerset and Rite Aid Pharmacy in Franklin Township; Jewish Family Service of Somerset, Hunterdon and Warren Counties, Somerville Family YMCA, Easter Seals of New Jersey, Interfaith Hospitality Network, Samaritan Homeless Interim Program and Rite Aid in Somerville; The Citi Children's Center At Warren and Temple Har Shalom in Warren; and BJs Wholesale Club in Watchung.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) leads this annual effort through its Ready Campaign, in partnership with Citizen Corps and The Ad Council.  FEMA asks all Americans to make the pledge to prepare this month. 

For more information about National Preparedness Month or to request resources, contact Cynthia S. Kusorgbor, health educator/risk communicator, at 908-231-7155 or kusorgbor@co.somerset.nj.us