WEST ORANGE, NJ – Approximately fifty congregate services coordinators from throughout New Jersey gathered last month to hear about emergency preparedness protocols from Laura Berkin, resident services coordinator at Jewish Federation Plaza in West Orange. The senior residence is one of four that are owned and managed by the Jewish Community Housing Corporation of Metropolitan New Jersey (JCHC). The presentation was based on material from the JCHC’s Storm Chaser events that the organization held in its senior living communities last fall. The presentation to the congregate service coordinators took place on March 27 at the Department of Health and Social Services in Mercerville, NJ.

Berkin shared the emergency preparation protocols that the JCHC has developed to keep its seniors safe during emergencies; the need for formal procedures became evident in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, when power outages disrupted routine operations. Attendees received helpful lists of emergency items for the elderly and saw examples of various emergency supplies that the JCHC made available to its residents at last fall’s Storm Chaser events, such as the Red Cross emergency bag that was developed specifically for older adults.

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“Education about how to prepare for a weather disaster is a significant part of keeping residents safe and calm,” said Berkin. “It’s important for building staff to have emergency supplies readily available but just as crucial for residents and their families to keep basics on hand.” Supplies recommended by Berkin include flashlights and fresh batteries, non-perishable food items and bottled water, battery-powered radio, portable cell phone charger, and a ‘to go’ bag with extra medications, clothing, personal care items and more.

Taking a page from the JCHC Emergency Preparedness playbook, Berkin shared the following tips with the congregate services coordinators in the event of a disaster or weather-related disruptions:

  •           Keep updated emergency contact information and evacuation documentation on all residents for each site so that the staff can properly care for its residents.
  •            Residents should have the contact information for all local first responders posted somewhere obvious in their homes.
  •           The importance of stocking enough food and water for seven days as part of the emergency preparations
  •            Keep all medical history and medical lists clearly posted and visible for emergency personnel.
  •            Register a wheelchair-bound or other disabled person with the local police department or Office of Emergency Management.

“The CHSP program allows participants in our communities to maintain a greater level of independence with supportive services,” said Berkin. “At the JCHC we firmly believe it is always best for our seniors to ‘age in place’ so we are happy to offer our insights to the CHSP coordinators.”

For more information about the JCHC or its housing options, programs and services for seniors, visit www.jchcorp.org.