SUMMIT, NJ - September is National Preparedness Month (www.ready.gov/september), which aims to educate and empower Americans to prepare for and respond to all types of emergencies. This year’s theme, "Be Disaster Aware, Take Action to Prepare", encourages people to be aware of the disasters that may occur in their area and then take action to be better prepared.
Christopher Cotter, City of Summit Administrator, serves as Summit's Office of Emergency Management (OEM) Coordinator, working closely with City Police and Fire Departments, and other key stakeholders, such as the Summit Schools, City Departments, Summit EMS, Union County OEM, Red Cross, Merck, Celgene, and Overlook Medical Center. Summit Police and Fire Chiefs, Robert Weck and Joseph Houck, serve as Deputy Coordinators.
"We work to identify risks, plan for possible scenarios, and manage resources during a major event," said Cotter. "All of the people who should be talking to each other are, making sure that we can bring the right assets to the right plan."
Cotter added, "The process involves four key elements: mitigate risk, planning, response and recovery." Vital elements of the recovery process include removing hazards, power restoration, the provision of shelter, and establishing / maintaining connectivity so that the public can stay informed.
A recent drill, for example, saw the team focus on the necessity and the role of technology in the recovery effort. During a major event, the group establishes a base on the second floor of the Summit Fire Department headquarters that serves as the City’s Emergency Operations Center.
Cotter stressed that residents can and should play a key role is assisting planning, response, and recovery efforts, such as volunteering to be part of Community Emergency Response Teams, or CERT, which helps leverage first responder staff capabilities. The reality is that full-time response teams cannot get to everyone immediately, and must prioritize their resources during an emergency. Self-sustainability during such a crisis is essential.
Another important step the public can take, is to be familiar with -- and follow -- the "Be Red Cross Ready" program, which has guidelines outlining the proper planning and supplies necessary to create a self-supporting environment for up to 72 hours.
Communities can begin planning their PrepareAthon! event by identifying the hazards that could happen in their area and developing their own! activity to address those risks. At an individual or workplace level, this might include actions like making a communication plan or building an emergency supply kit. Communities can take action to prepare by coordinating with local emergency management agencies, first responders, fire, police, or public health departments to develop a community-wide drill. Many communities in earthquake-prone areas around the country will be participating in the Great Shakeout, a worldwide earthquake drill on October 16.
Once communities have identified a preparedness action, they can register their event on the America’s PrepareAthon! website (www.ready.gov/prepare) and join millions of Americans who are doing their part to be more prepared.