BERNARDS TWP., NJ - Bernards Township officials have laid out a game plan for how residents can help prepare for a wide variety of future emergencies--including extreme weather, the spread of major illnesses, or manmade disasters--with some of the community's own experiences providing first-hand knowledge.

Earlier this month, township said at a presentation on preparedness, which is posted online, that they learned much on how to prepare for emergencies after "Superstorm" Sandy in 2012, including how to improve communications with residents and the power company covering this area, Jersey Central Power & Light.

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The township's emergency responders, both professional and volunteer, respond during hurricanes, searches for missing persons, severe snowstorms, power outages, fires, and water main breaks. Working with the Bernards Township health department, the township also takes steps to prepare for possible outbreaks of communicable diseases.

Emergency responders react to handle an emergency while it is happening, and then respond to the aftermath, the township's Office of Emergency Management, Chris Hurst, told the Township Committee and public.

The emergency management office also ensures that the township is complying with federal guidelines in its response, and applies for federal grants afterwards, Hurst said.

Preparing for emergencies also means addressing the psychological aspects of such incidents, said Lucy Forgione, township health officer.

Emergencies have many aspects, she said, noting that flooding might also cause fire outages and water boil advisories. Power outages can also cause gasoline shortages, as happened during Superstorm Sandy, she added.

The township's preparedness program advises residents who are planning to remain home during an emergency to prepare ahead with:

- a three- to five-day supply of non-perishable food and water per person.

- stockpile an ABC fire extinguisher, battery powered radio, LED flashlight, batteries, non-electric
can opener, kitchen items (paper goods), toiletries and bleach.

-  compile a first aid kit, including 3 days supply of medication for all family members

Residents should be aware of where emergency supplies are stored, and in what containers, township officials advised.

Items to have on hand in case evacuation is required

Residents should also have certain items on hand in case of the need to evacuate:

- have copies of all important documents : licenses, medical insurance, passport, power of attorney.

- adequate supply of cash especially, and also credit cards.

- change of clothing.

- duffel bags or backpacks stored in a location where where all household members can find it

- ensure all family members know where to meet, where to go, and how to get in contact with each other. 

After the meeting, Forgione recalled that the township had an emergency preparedness plan event before the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, but she said emergency responders did what they needed to following the destruction of the twin towers in New York City, whether it was looking for vehicles at train and bus stations for residents who were detained--or killed--on that day, or coordinating with schools to make sure children didn't go home to an empty house. About 20 Bernards Township residents were killed, depending on how residency was counted, on 9/11 in 2001.

Later in the meeting, Deputy Mayor John Malay noted that although for much of the nation, Sept. 11, 2001 has receded into history, the event remains much a part of life in the New York area, and particularly in Bernards Township. Many of those who died had spouses, he said, adding that 44 children--some born after that date--lost a family member. 

"Some victims are still listed as missing since their remains were never recovered," Malay said. "This area will continue to bear the scars for quite a while."