In advance of Hurricane Sandy, which experts say could hit Mahwah Monday, the township has activated a preparation plan that includes a new text message alert system for residents and increased staffing and preparations at the police department, fire department, Department of Public Works, and emergency response units.
“As soon as the storm starts, work schedules will be abandoned,” Mayor Bill Laforet said. “We are going to be all hands on deck.”
According to township officials, preparation for Hurricane Sandy started earlier this week.
“We can’t control Mother Nature, but we are going to do everything we can to prepare for this storm,” Laforet said.
New Text Message Alert System
Mahwah has launched a new emergency notification system. Run by Nixle, LLC, the new system allows residents to receive emergency notifications via text message.
According to Mahwah officials, the township was planning on implementing the new system over the next few months, but was prompted by reports of Hurricane Sandy heading toward New Jersey to launch it Friday.
Nixle will be administered by the Mahwah Police Department and Mayor’s Office. According to Laforet, the new system was a response to the leaf and brush clean-up after last year’s Halloween snowstorm.
“We noticed there was a gap in communication where we couldn’t communicate with residents during the storm and when the power was down,” Laforet said. “Using the new system, we can get information out to people right to the palm of their hands.”
Laforet said this new method will be in addition to the .
“We have the ability to keep using more technology to deal with situations like this in the best way possible.”
The Nixle system, officials said, is both free to residents who sign up to receive the alerts, and free for the township to utilize.
According to a release sent out by Police Chief James Batelli about the new system, it provides the PD with an additional way to communicate information to residents during emergency situations. The "township [now has] multiple methods to enable law enforcement to get emergency notifications out," he said.
Residents can sign up for the service by texting the message “Mahwah1” to the number 888777.
Email alerts are also available to anyone who signs up for those by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nixle will send a confirmation text to anyone who signs up. Anyone who has a problem signing up should email email@example.com for assistance.
DPW Prepping Problem Areas
The Mahwah Department of Public Works started preparing for the storm earlier this week, Director Keith Hallissey said. The DPW has readied its equipment, and taken steps to lessen flooding potential in known flood-prone spots throughout Mahwah: it has lowered Winter’s Pond, removed a tree from the Mahwah River near Catherine Ave., and is checking every low-lying area and catch basin, Hallissey said.
The DPW is asking residents to make sure any storm drains near their houses are clear of leaves, brush and other debris.
Emergency Responders On Call
Mahwah’s police, fire, ambulance, Office of Emergency Management and other emergency responders will be fully staffed and are preparing for the storm, officials said.
The police department will be staffed with extra 911 operators to handle an anticipated influx of emergency calls during the storm. Last year, during the height of Hurricane Irene, Mahwah’s dispatch center answered 450 calls an hour, police Chief James Batelli said.
Fire Chief Brian Potter said the FD has bolstered its staffing and is preparing its equipment to respond to storm-related emergencies. “We are ready for the worst,” he said Friday.
Potter added that it is too early to say whether or not families in flood-prone areas will need to leave their homes during the storm. But, the FD, which evacuated multiple Mahwah families from flooded homes during Hurricane Irene, is warning Mahwah residents not to stay in their homes if dangerous conditions arise.
“Don’t risk your life to try to save your property, it’s not worth it,” Potter said. “It also risks the lives of our emergency responders.”
How to Prepare
Officials are recommending that homeowners stock up on emergency supplies such as food, water and medication for family pets for at least 72 hours.
Even Gov. Christie called on New Jersey residents to take prophylactic steps ahead of the storm: "Now, ahead of any potential impact of Sandy, is the time for families to ensure they are prepared and are tuned in for the latest path of the storm for our coast. I encourage all of our families to stay informed, get ready, and reach out to those you know who may be isolated, or in need of extra assistance during adverse conditions."
Some suggestions issued by The American Red Cross Friday include:
- A portable kit, stored in a sturdy, easy to carry, water resistant container should have enough supplies for three days. Check your kit and replace perishable stock every six months.
Whether you purchase a kit or choose to build your own, your three-day kit should include:
- Water: one gallon per person, per day.
- Food: nonperishable, easy-to-prepare items such as tuna fish, peanut butter, crackers, and canned fruit.
- Don't forget to include a manual can opener.
- A battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight and plenty of extra batteries.
- A first aid kit.
- Prescription and nonprescription medication items. Include medical supplies like extra hearing aid batteries, syringes, etc.
- Copies of important documents, including birth certificates, insurance policies and social security cards.
- Sanitation and personal hygiene items.
- Extra cash. ATMs and credit cards won’t work if the power is out.
- Special items for infant, elderly or disabled family members.
- One blanket or sleeping bag per person.
- Pet supplies (collar, leash, ID, food, carrier, bowls).
Know what to do if a hurricane watch is issued:
- Listen to weather updates from your battery-powered or hand-cranked radio.
- Bring in outdoor objects such as lawn furniture, hanging plants, bicycles, toys and garden tools, anchor objects that cannot be brought inside.
- Close all windows and doors. Cover windows with storm shutters or plywood.
- If time permits, and you live in an identified surge zone, elevate furniture or move it to a higher floor to protect it from flooding.
- Fill your vehicle’s gas tank.
- Check your disaster supplies kit to make sure items have not expired.
Know what to do if a hurricane warning is issued:
- Listen to the advice of local officials, and leave if they tell you to do so.
- If in a manufactured home, check tie-downs and evacuate as told by local authorities.
- Secure your home by unplugging appliances and turning off electricity and the main water valve.
- If you are not advised to evacuate, stay inside, away from windows, skylights and glass doors.
- Do not use open flames, such as candles and kerosene lamps, as a source of light.
- If power is lost, turn off appliances to reduce damage from a power surge when electricity is rest
Previous Patch coverage of Hurricane Sandy
- Evacuations Possible if Hurricane Sandy Hits Bergen County
- Gov. Christie: Prepare for Hurricane Sandy
- Hurricane Sandy Could Make NJ Landfall Monday
- O&R Preps For Possible Hurricane Sandy Power Outages