If there's a one-word description for how residents and officials are supposed to feel one year after Superstorm Sandy dealt a knock-out punch to Warren Township and nearby communities in Somerset County, that word is: prepared.
Of course, for those residents who suffered through three prolonged power outages during late summer and fall in 2011 and 2012 — including Hurricane Irene, the Oct. 29 snowfall a few months later, and then Sandy exactly a year after that — other emotions may also come into play.
"I think a lot of people were traumatized on Some level from the repeated experiences," said Jane Asch, Warren Township's Coordinator of the Office of Emergency Management for about five years.
But Asch said that preparing is one way to help deal with those emotions. She said she believes that people were most angry — and surprised — when their power was out for a week or so following Hurricane Irene at the end of August in 2011.
By now, Asch said, residents are aware that, "This can happen in our community." After Sandy, she said that some residents were without electricity for in excess of two weeks.
For it's part, the township has taken steps to help residents prepare, at least to remain self-sufficient in their homes for the first few days after an emergency strikes, Asch said.
She said a major problem after Sandy was that residents were coming out of their homes and driving on streets where possibly live wires were entangled with down trees.
As Sandy subsided, the Warren Township police department urged residents to stay off roads.
As the Warren Township Department of Public Works struggled mightily to remove all trees without wires that were supposed to be tested by Jersey Central Power and Light Co. — a mission accomplished within 24 hours — having passerbys and drivers could complicate their jobs, or even endanger such workers and other first responders, Asch said.
The goal is for homeowners to be prepared to be able to shelter in their homes at least for a few days, even before they leave to find places or supplies that may have electricity, if they don't, she said.
Laminated yellow emergency card sent to all township households
Asch said that every Warren Township household has been mailed a yellow laminated card that includes phone numbers, details for preparing for an emergency and other information that is needed in an emergency situation.
General emergency information for residents is on the Warren Township website under the "emergency information" bar on the right hand side of the main page.
Asch said that the township has at least eight to 10 ways of reaching out to residents during an emergency, including an emergency operating system that was set up at the police department, a shelter that was in place at the Stone Crest Community Church, information sent out to area media, phone calls sent out through a mass communication network, Facebook and Twitter and more.
First responders and volunteers were 'wonderful' during Sandy
Asch said that a positive aspect of Sandy was the "wonderful" job that volunteers, first responders, officials and employees who went far beyond the requirements of their job put in during the emergency itself and the prolonged power outage afterward.
The Warren Township fire department, made up of volunteers, responded even during the storm to deal with a fire from a burning transformer and also a house fire, she said.
Then-mayor Carolann Garafola put in hundreds of hours of time each week right after the storm, Asch said.
The township continued Sandy debris pickup into January of this year, with the Public Works Department collected more than 10,000 square yards of debris, from 324 township streets and nine county roads. The police did an "amazing job" with tracking which roads were open and closed during the emergency, Asch said.
Asch said that nearly all of Warren Township was left without power in Sandy's wake. As did officials along a path where major destruction took place in the Somerset Hills area she said she believes a tornado or wind shear swept through the area.
The emergency management page advises residents to set up an emergency management kit and plan, and to update every six months:
"After our experiences with major storms causing extended power outages for many, we have learned that disasters do and will happen here. How prepared are you for another event? Now is the time to prepare for a disaster, and the most important part of preparedness is to have a Family Disaster PLAN. Your plan should definitely include what your family and you will do if you lose electricity for a week or more. If your home is supplied by well water, have a plan for a place to go or consider buying a generator.
Below is a quick reference list of essential needs to assemble a Disaster Plan. More detailed information, and suggestions can be found at the following websites:
Somerset County (click on Emergency Preparedness) www.co.somerset.nj.us
American Red Cross www.redcross.org
New Jersey Homeland Security www.njhomelandsecurity.gov/
· Disaster Supply Kit (update every six months)
. Water (one gallon of water per person per day)
. Food (a three day supply of nonperishable food per person)
. First Aid Kit
. Tools and Supplies (such as flashlight, batteries, battery powered radio)
. Clothing and Bedding (one change of clothing per person, one blanket per person)
. Special items (medications, eyeglasses, baby items, important family documents, extra set of keys, credit card, cash)
· Emergency Action Plan
. Develop a Family Contact List for every member (work, school and cell phone numbers)
. Create an Emergency Contact List (out of area contacts, utility companies, physicians)
. Decide upon Reunion Points to meet (outside your home & outside the neighborhood)
. Keep informed. To access emergency information during a disaster, use the following media :
Warren Township’s website's home page.
On line daily newspaper Warren Patch at www.warren.patch.com
Warren Cable Station at Channel 15 (Cablevision) or Channel (Fios)
Somerset County Emergency Alert System Radio Station: WNJT 88.1 FM
. Plan ahead for Care of Pets (crate, leash, food)
. Know how to turn off water, gas and electricity in your home
Warren Township has a REVERSE 911 system to communicate with residents during an emergency. If you loose electricity, you may receive the R911 messages on your cell phone by placing your cell phone number into the system. Go to www.warrenpolice.com, and click on the “GLOBAL CONNECTS” icon to fill out the form.
If you are or if you know of an individual with special needs who would have difficulty in meeting those needs during an emergency, sign up for Register Ready, a free confidential NJ online database that identifies residents with special needs in order for emergency responders to know who they are, what the needs are, and where they reside. To register online go to www.registerready.nj.gov or call the Township Clerk Patricia DiRocco at 908-753-8000 x221 for a paper form. You may also call 2-1-1 to register by phone."