Lawrence Township Mayor Greg Puliti has declared a municipal state of emergency that will go into effect at 6 p.m. today (Friday, Aug. 26) and remain in place throughout Hurricane Irene.
The declaration authorizes “proactive and responsive actions by township personnel to protect people and property throughout Lawrence Township” before, during and after the hurricane, Township Manager Richard Krawczun said in a news release.
“Lawrence Township emergency management and public safety personnel have been preparing for conditions that may result from the impact of Hurricane Irene. Preparations include increases in staffing deployments for public safety and non-public safety employees,” Krawczun said in the release.
“Public works employees have prepared all equipment and resources for a heightened level of readiness for an emergency response as conditions dictate,” he added.
He said the township’s police department will increase the number of command personnel, patrol officers and communication operators on duty during the storm. Additional ambulance crews will also be working.
Chiefs of the township’s volunteer fire companies said today they are working hard to muster up as many volunteer firefighters as possible who will be available to respond to emergencies in town during the storm.
Part of the difficulty, they noted, is that many of Lawrence Township’s volunteer firefighters have full-time jobs as firefighters, police officers and emergency responders in other municipalities. Others work for utility companies such as PSE&G, or are employed as building and maintenance supervisors for large facilities.
Most of these individuals are considered to be “essential personnel” and will, under the terms of their employment, be committed to their full-time jobs. As such, they will be unavailable to volunteer in Lawrence during the storm.
It is also important to remember, the chiefs said, that this storm has the potential to be more severe than any other the town has ever experienced, and the volunteers’ first responsibility is to ensure the safety of their families. The volunteers, they said, will do the best they can to protect their fellow neighbors, but will be able to do so only if their own families – many of which include young children – are safe.
The priority during the storm, the chiefs said, will be protecting life. All efforts will be made to rescue those in danger during the hurricane. Firefighters’ lives, however, will not be endangered during the storm to pump water from flooded basements, they said.
If flood waters threaten a home’s utilities, firefighters will respond to shut off the electric and gas and mitigate other hazards, but the actual removal of water from flooded basements cannot begin until after the storm is over. And such services will be done only if there are adequate resources and manpower available, they said.
For these reasons, township administrators and emergency officials are stressing how important it is for Lawrence Township residents and businesses to make all the preparations necessary to be self-sustaining in their locations for at least 48 hours. Preparations should include stocking up on water, food and medications.
New Jersey Office of Emergency Management website at www.ready.nj.gov offers detailed list of suggested preparation actions.
“In addition, residents are strongly encouraged to refrain from traveling on local roadways during the hurricane event,” Krawczun said.
Communication about the storm event could be interrupted by power outages. Updates pertaining to Lawrence Township – when available – will be posted on the Lawrence Township website at www.lawrencetwp.com, Comcast Channel 19 and Verizon Channel 36.
Both the township email alert and Reverse 911 systems will be employed “as necessary.” Residents who have not yet enrolled for these services are encouraged to sign up by visiting www.lawrencetwp.com.
Krawczun also noted that the Lawrence Township Police Department will have staff available beginning at 6 a.m. Sunday (Aug. 28) to provide answers to non-emergency inquires. They may be reached at (609) 896-0225.