SPARTA, NJ - “I think that we’re all very familiar with the Sandy wrath that came through recently which shed a little bit more light on the fact that we need to be a little more prepared,” said Councilwoman Christine Quinn. “What’s our plan? What’s our purpose? What can we do when something else happens and on what level?”
The hour and a half kickoff meeting for the Crisis Management/ Public Safety Committee, led by Quinn, took place on Wednesday, May 1, with representatives from the township, and from local businesses in attendance.
“I want to thank you. Everyone in the room was pulled together because you are a valued asset within the community, in order to solve our problems we need to come together and that takes multiple people with multiple talents and multiple experiences.”
The purpose of the new committee is to help make the town and its citizens more prepared for emergencies, and also more aware of safety options; the creation and implementation of a Community Emergency Response Team or CERT is also an objective.
In an example that hit close to home for all in attendance, Quinn explained the issues that arose in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy: no power, damage, displacement, limited to no communication, scarce fuel sources, isolated neighborhoods and scattered organizations and efforts to reach affected citizens and provide assistance. She then discussed what type of teams that could be created that would help in an emergency situation, such as Hurricane Sandy, including teams that would focus on shelter, food, water, transportation, communications, labor, media, special needs (seniors and medical special needs) and energy (generators).
“The best plan is the one made before the crisis hits,” said Quinn.
After a PowerPoint presentation outlining the general goals of the committee, Quinn invited Sparta Chief of Police Ernie Reigstad, who is working with her on this initiative, to speak to the crowd. Reigstad explained that his primary job in emergency situations is to coordinate efforts between the police, fire department, ambulance squad, and other agencies. He pointed out that it is the smaller disasters that tend to need the most help because unlike events like Hurricane Sandy, which often bring help and volunteers in from other states, they do not.
He emphasized that the town should try and be prepared for events that are not routine adding that, “Sussex County knows how to deal with snowstorms like Florida knows how to deal with hurricanes.”
He would like to see Sparta prepared for as many unusual, for the area, events as possible.
There are several key elements that the Crisis Management/ Public Safety Committee would like to focus on and build with the aid of the community. They would like to expand public awareness, education and civilian preparedness, they would like to implement plans before a disaster, investigate their resources and put safety initiatives in place as well as offer training sessions in life saving courses like CPR and First Aid.
The committee understands that structure is important in moving forward. They see the flow of their structure as identifying needs, building teams, investigating options and, finally, building solutions. As this meeting was primarily an introduction to the ideas and to the people that may be participating, the next meeting will be a working one where the participants will brainstorm safety options and ideas while discussing resources and how the individual teams, as well as the committee, may be helpful to the town and its citizens. Due to the fact that the committee is brand new and will still be finding its way, everything is subject to change and nothing is set in stone.
Said Quinn, “Sometimes the answers are right in front of you, they just aren’t clear; you have to work with each other to get answers.”
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