HUNTERDON COUNTY, NJ - Brayden Fahey, county coordinator for the Division of Emergency Management, presented an update April 21 on coordinated county responses with various deployments, support functions and procurements, in accordance with the county’s Comprehensive Emergency Operations Plan.
To date, the county OEM has processed more than 500 individual resource requests, including ones for PPE and hospital and healthcare equipment for the battle against COVID-19 at both the countywide and municipal levels, and requests are consistently directed to the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.
“Using a community approach to emergency management, we’re working with partners in the federal, state and local levels of government, private sector businesses, faith-based community and nonprofit groups, and we are engaging residents to do their part through physical distancing and other safeguarding actions,” Fahey said. “Through the hundreds of requests, we have supplied over 12,000 N95 masks and nearly 92,000 procedure masks. Additionally, through the state OEM, we have fulfilled resource requests for Hunterdon Medical Center in Flemington and supplied them with 19 ventilators and 130 hospital beds, 30 of which they have opted to take delivery of already."
Costs to the OEM incurred for the supply and delivery of resources include nearly $14,000 for long-term care (and nursing home) facilities. Fahey said the value of PPE and related supplies the county OEM provided to municipalities and first responders throughout Hunterdon during the pandemic now exceeds $21,000.
FEMA has issued a Major Disaster Declaration for Hunterdon County, and Fahey noted that this makes certain costs reimburseable. The county OEM works closely with Hunterdon’s municipalities and other eligible organizations to ensure they participate in the funds recovery process.
Meanwhile, the potential exists for a key county resource to be directed to hard-hit Bergen County and other parts of North Jersey, taking cues from FEMA plans.
“We are working in coordination with the state OEM and the New Jersey Department of Health to assess trends and impacts that impact not only Hunterdon County, but regionally,” Fahey said. “As part of this, we’ve recently surveyed the Hunterdon County BLS ambulance strike team for its potential deployment into northeastern New Jersey counties to aid their significantly increased 911 EMS call volume. This resource need has been answered through FEMA’s national ambulance contract, which has brought ambulances and teams into New Jersey from around the country.”
Also during the April 21 freeholders meeting, county purchasing agent Ray Rule presented the board with a vote on authorizing funds to contractor CDW for procurement of audio-visual upgrades for the Emergency Operations Center (Hunterdon County Communications Center) in Flemington. The project’s not-to-exceed sum and bid award is $51,320.
Rule noted that this project was identified and approved in the 2019 county capital budget.
Freeholder J. Matt Holt called the approval an important, appropriate investment of county funds into upgrading the A/V systems for emergency operations.
“The upgrade will basically allow all of the 25 workstations to interface with the main overhead project and the screens,” he said. “It’s part of our programmed training for emergency response folks. I do not know if I can ever state it enough, but we are actually seeing (during the pandemic) how their preparation and training gets put to the test, as right now we are getting a test and doses of reality.”
The Communications and Emergency Operations Center is also Hunterdon County’s Office of Emergency Management training headquarters for other county departments, and the A/V upgrades support their training needs as well. Holt commended the contract approval and said he is glad the county budgeted for this in 2019 and that it can be carried out.
Another OEM initiative taking place in Hunterdon County, Fahey said, is a non-congregate sheltering program for homeless individuals, as well as a shelter program for first responders and healthcare workers in the county needing to isolate themselves from their families due to COVID-19 exposure at their workplace.
“This program is reimbursable by FEMA as a reimbursable cost to the county,” Fahey said.
The county OEM is also managing to stay in contact with private sector partners and nonprofit food agencies to ensure that community needs are being met. Fahey told the freeholders about positive signals OEM heard from ShopRite of Hunterdon County – a mainstay of the Colalillo family of five ShopRites, including stores in Flemington, Clinton and Phillipsburg – which is reporting restoration of their “shop from home” program in the county.
“It goes without saying that such a business partner provides critical services to Hunterdon residents, just as our county, state and local governments do,” he said.
Fahey noted that his colleagues in the Office of Emergency Management expressed that their thoughts remain with patients and families of those infected with coronavirus, as well as with healthcare workers, first responders, mortuary staff “and all those who continue to answer the call to service on the front lines each day.”