September is National Preparedness Month and the Assembly Homeland Security and Preparedness Committee held a hearing today to discuss how the state’s residents can be better prepared for emergencies. Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, chair of that committee, told NJ Today Managing Editor Mike Schneider that the goal is to make sure everyone in the state knows how to get ready for a disaster.
“Most people on the ground — your soccer moms, your PTA dads — most people don’t really know how to prepare for an emergency.” Quijano said. “And New Jersey’s no stranger to floods and the earthquake last year. And we really have to make sure people on the ground know how to prepare.”
At today’s hearing, Quijano said members of the state police, FEMA, the Red Cross and Verizon all testified. She said the Assembly Homeland Security and Preparedness Committee has many different programs.
“We have to make sure that this is not just a one month, one hit blurb on a newspaper or on a radio station or on the TV,” Quijano said. “This is something that we have to work at every day to make sure that all the residents of the state of New Jersey are prepared.”
After 9/11, officials realized that state agencies weren’t doing a terrific job of communicating with each other. Quijano said the agencies are working together in a better way. “Of course we can always improve, but they know that it’s important to work together and they have been,” she said.
Quijano said the greatest challenge is reminding residents what they need to do. To help with that effort, she is starting a statewide program visiting senior citizens, young adults, high school students, parents and more.
“Most people don’t even realize that not only do you have to make sure you have the items in your household for a stay over, so in case the help can’t get to you for up to three days, 72 hours. You need to have water, food, things like batteries for a flashlight, can openers. Just basic things,” Quijano said. “And by educating all our residents on the basics, that’s going to help every agency that deals with homeland security because we’re going to have a prepared group of individuals.”