New Jersey (including Basking Ridge) and surrounding states can be expected to experience two natural disasters this week — one predicted and the other a total surprise.
Emergency officials say New Jersey residents' primary concern isn't the Virginia earthquake that shook the entire East Coast—but a reported hurricane that is predicted with some certainty to at least bring heavy rains and thunderstorms to Bernards Township on Saturday night into Sunday night.
The National Weather Service reports that Hurricane Irene—which already has rolled through the Bahamas—is expected to land in North Carolina by Saturday and then travel northward.
Following Tuesday's earthquake, Bernards Township Sgt. Mike Shimsky, who heads the township's Office of Emergency Management, said that local emergency response planners do not focus on specific area, such as earthquake or weather preparedness, in the OEM's plans.
"We utilize an “all-hazards” approach methodology and focus on preparedness of events which, in many cases, encompass the same type of thought processes as preparing for an earthquake, [such as] hurricane or weather events."
The Federal Emergency Management Agency has its own website with information and suggested precautions to take both in advance and during a hurricane and other flooding situations.
For example, during a flood, residents are encouraged to listen for news reports of whether the community's water supply is safe to drink. (Keeping a supply of bottled water on hand at all times is a standard precaution in earthquake zones — along with an ample supply of prescription drugs for those who rely on them.)
Those who are flooded should avoid floodwaters, according to FEMA. Floodwater potentially may be contaminated by oil, gasoline, or raw sewage. Water may also be electrically charged from underground or downed power lines.
The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management offers these tips to help you get ready in the case a hurricane hits.
- Make an Emergency Go-Bag, which includes items such as, bottled water, battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries, non-perishable foods, and necessary prescription drugs. Remember to include extra cash in the event ATMs are not working.
- Make a Family Emergency Plan, which will ensure your family members know where to go, whom to contact, and how to remain in contact should family members become separated during an emergency event.
- Remember to maintain at least a half tank of gas in your vehicle at all times.
According to the AccuWeather website, Irene could "flirt with the Delmarva [peninsula] and New Jersey and then on to eastern Long Island and southeastern New England."
The NJOEM said via its website that the threat may be heaviest for shore areas, which could experience tidal and storm surge flooding.
Even with flooding and heavy storms a far more likely natural disaster to hit Central Jersey, Shimsky said the Bernards Township OEM still reconizes the risk of an earthquake in this area. "It is noted with its probability in our plans."
Shimsky said the township's emergency responders would rely on existing emergency operations procedures to deal with disruptions due to seismic activity.
"Our Emergency Operations Plan is updated annually and certified by the state every three years," Shimsky said. "I am aware of contingencies that the public utilities and pipeline companies have in place in the event of failures of their equipment. We also are aware of all of the critical infrastructure in our township that may need attention during a severe earthquake or other event."
Shimsky noted that more information on earthquake preparedness is outlined on another FEMA webpage.
Following Tuesday's seismic event, Shimsky said he contacted the Somerset County Office of Emergency Management, and was told, as local police had said on Monday afternoon, that there were no reports of damage in Bernards Township.
"I have heard several experts represent that the aftershocks associated with these types of quakes are generally on a greatly diminished scale than the original event and most times cannot be felt as far away as we are form the epicenter," Shimsky said following the Tuesday earthquake in Virginia.