Westfield Prepares for Hurricane Joaquin

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Westfield's mobile command center was on display Sunday at Festifall. In the case of an emergency, it can serve as a 911 dispatch center, among other things. Credits: Jackie Lieberman
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WESTFIELD, NJ — Town officials are getting ready for what could be the biggest weather event here since Superstorm Sandy, if Hurricane Joaquin heads our way. Officials say the storm could make landfall in New Jersey late Sunday night or early Monday morning. Before noon on Thursday, Gov. Chris Christie declared a state of emergency.

 A “Hurricane Joaquin Watch” is posted on town’s website, www.westfieldnj.gov. In addition to updates on the storm the page offers important information about hurricane preparedness, such as where to sign up for emergency alerts from the town and how to safely store gasoline at your home.

Greg O’Neil, director of public works, said he thinks it’s unlikely that Joaquin will hit Westfield.

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“These things are really impossible to predict, but you prepare for the worst, as always,” O’Neil said. On Thursday, he was making sure that all DPW vehicles and equipment were up and running and fully fueled.

The department has a plan for clearing Westfield’s roads, O’Neil said, detailing which roads are primary, which are secondary and which neighborhoods could potentially be cut off by one fallen tree, such as those in horseshoe-shaped blocks.

O’Neil was the assistant director of public works in Princeton when Superstorm Sandy hit. One lesson he learned from that storm — have “layers,” or redundancy, such as multiple generators at government buildings in case some fail.

New to Westfield since Sandy is the town’s mobile command center, purchased in spring of 2013. The command center, which was on display to the public at Festifall Sunday, can serve as a secondary 911 dispatch center and includes a mobile generator. Outlets on the outside make the command center into a potential charging station for offcials and town employees as well as members of the public.

Inside the command center are work stations, a small conference room, radios and a full EMS cabinet. It also has internet capability.

Outside on top of the command center, a camera is mounted on a 50-foot mast, providing views from all around on a flat-screen monitor inside. Floodlights on the roof can be raised and lowered and are capable of lighting a football field.

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