1. How does the Office of Emergency Management operate? Who is on it and what are their roles?
From a public safety and law enforcement perspective, the Office of Emergency Management exists to formulate, implement and execute a system of procedures to control personnel, facilities, equipment and communications in times of crisis and major incidents.
By utilizing a pre-determined Incident Command System, which clearly delineates the resources at the disposal of our municipality, in conjunction with proper lines of authority and control, we can establish an organized response to any incident ranging from hurricanes to major crime scenes.
The first step in the process is one of separating incidents of widespread or localized emergencies, in order to form our perspective on these types of operations.
There is a sense among many people in government that assistance will always be available, while this is true in the long run, it will not always be the case in the early minutes and hours of an emergency. Any event of widespread proportions, which effects many municipalities, such as hurricanes, municipalities will be forced to rely on solely their own resources until well after the threat has passed. The simple reality of dealing with an event of this nature, is each municipality will be dedicated to the fullest reaches of their own resources in combating localized incidents where very little, to no mutual aid would be available. It will only be in the aftermath that organizations such as county and State OEM’s in conjunction with the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) would be in place for assistance.
It is also true that any smaller scale emergencies contained to just our community that the burden of responsibility will again rest with local resources. Over the last fifteen (15) years, the Borough has dealt with several motor vehicle accidents, power outages, civil disorder and major crimes, where local police, DPW and fire components operated void of outside assistance until well into the incident. Although assistance in these localized events will arrive, with the exception of police personnel, it will take time to deliver these outside resources, normally a few hours.
The next step, after framing the issues we are facing and the anticipated time lines, is to identify the resources and personnel that we would have readily available in the early hours of a crisis.
The primary first response units will be strictly of local origin until at the very least an assessment is conducted. These units are as follows:
- Mountain Lakes Police Department
- Mountain Lakes Department of Public Works
- Mountain Lakes Fire Department
- Mountain Lakes School District (Superintendent)
- Local Health Officer
- Mountain Lakes Borough Government (Manager)
- Boonton Kiwanis Ambulance
Each one of the local resource units listed has designated someone as their liaison to the O.E.M. function and that individual must have command and control authority.
These liaisons will report directly to the O.E.M. coordinator (Borough Manager) on all issues pertaining to the emergency and coordination of resources, with final authority resting with the O.E.M. director/co-director.
The public official assigned to the position of O.E.M. director, under our current system is determined by the nature of the incident. Typically the breakdown would be as follows:
Department of Public Works Director
- Natural disaster – clean up. road opening, overall assessment of needed resource
- Water main breaks — large scale, determine rerouting process, required road closures, identify alternate water source
- Haz-mat incident (accidental) – containment, notification, contact point for clean up.
- Fire scene (non-arson/no death) — extinguish fire, coordinate mutual aid, prepare relief equipment, advise police of needed traffic detours and road closure. Fires of this nature do not normally require O.E.M. involvement. If the fire involves arson or a death, authority would revert to local police department and Morris County Prosecutor’s Office.
- Ice/water rescue — response and coordination of rescue and recovery.
Chief of Police
- Civil disorder — response, mutual aid, property and life protection, apprehend anyone committing criminal act, containment and intelligence
- Serious motor vehicle accident — investigation, detouring, initial medical assistance, mutual aid
- Bio/Chem incident — assessment, containment, testing, notification to proper County, State and Federal agencies. Any suspected act of this nature will be considered a crime scene with law enforcement as the lead agency
- Hostage/Stand-Off incidents — containment, evacuation, target assessment, threat removal, mutual aid and outside agency coordinator
- Missing Persons — search, investigate, mutual aid, coordinate with County Prosecutor’s Office
- Major Crime Scene — investigation, mutual aid, evidence collection, coordinate with outside agencies, media relations, and traffic
- Bomb Threats/Suspicious Packages — evacuation, assessment, mutual aid, investigation, containment and coordination with County Bomb Squad.
The liaison from the respective entities, who are not serving in the lead capacity, will act in an advisory capacity to the O.E.M. director/co-director. It is also recommended that whenever possible, that the Superintendent of Schools and the Borough Manager serve as media relations officers when the event is affecting their areas of responsibility.
With regards to any major crisis or emergency, it is important to identify our second and third levels of response, which in essence, simply maps out what outside agencies will be able to provide assistance.
- Morris County O.E.M.
- Morris County Sheriff
- Morris County Prosecutor’s Office
- Morris County health officials
- HMHTTC Haz-mat removal
- Assistance from local municipalities
- New Jersey State Police
- New Jersey State O.E.M.
- New Jersey State National Guard
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- Federal Emergency Management Administration
- Center for Disease Control
The response time and level of resource assistance will be determined by the scope and severity of the incident.
Coordination between these various agencies has vastly improved over the last several weeks. This is obviously a welcome sign that should be reassuring to all.
As we view the complexities of these large-scale operations, I feel it is extremely important for all those involved in this procedure to focus on three (3) key elements to success
We have no way of knowing the time, place or scope of any future incidents, whether they be of a terrorist nature or natural disaster. If we place our focus on these three items, we will virtually guarantee our ability to minimize the severity of any future events.
In closing, the committee would like to emphasize that we, as a community and a nation, become better prepared with each passing day and although the availability of outside resources may take some time in reaching any smaller communities, we are confident that we will be ready to face those challenges.
2. If a crisis occurred, how would residents be informed (i.e. sirens, megaphones, telephone, radio.)? Is there a local radio station for emergency information? Would you recommend that residents have a battery-powered radio?
Depending on the size and scope of the crisis, the Borough has a number of communication vehicles available in order to inform the public:
- Cable Television
- Emergency Sirens
- P.A. Systems in Police Cars
The Borough OEM Coordinator and OEM Director/Co-directors, after assessing the crisis, will determine the necessary means of communication. It is recommended that all residents should obtain a battery-powered radio.
3. Are there shelters in town? What type of emergency would they be appropriate for and where are they located?
The Office of Emergency Management in cooperation with the Mountain Lakes Board of Education operates two shelters in the borough. The Mountain Lakes High School is designated our main shelter. Located on Powerville Road, the High School has the capability to temporarily house and feed people and pets that are displaced from their homes.
The High School has an emergency generator for electrical power during power outages. This generator has the capacity to supply enough power to run the heating system, cafeteria, gym, auditorium, and additional rooms and corridors.
The use of food and supplies from the cafeteria can be used to feed people for several days. Other supplies would be received through the County Office Of Emergency Management on an as needed basis.
The second shelter in our borough is the Lake Drive School.
Located on the corner of Lake Drive and the Boulevard the Lake Drive school is equipped with an emergency generator and this shelter serves as a back-up facility to the High School should it be over crowded or not available.
These Shelters would be opened by order of the Mountain Lakes Office of Emergency Management should residents be evacuated from their homes because of any emergency condition that local officials deem unsafe.
Examples of such conditions:
- Severe Weather causing power outages and property damage:
- Thunder Storms
- Tropical Storms
- Snow Storms
- High Winds
- Ice Storms
- Highway or roadway spill of hazardous material.
- Fire Disasters
- Man made hazards:
- Acts of terrorism
- Criminal activity
4. Do we have alternative water sources if our wells became contaminated? Should residents store water?
The Mountain Lakes Water System has three interconnections with our neighboring communities of Boonton, Parsippany, and Denville. These interconnects are designed to supply emergency water either to or from Mountain Lakes in the event of an emergency.
The American Water Works Association (AWWA) has joined U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Christine Todd Whitman in assuring the public that the nation’s drinking water is safe highly unlikely to be compromised in the event of a terrorist attack. The AWWA has indicated that it would take enormous quantities of most potentially harmful chemical agents to successfully compromise a water system. This does not mean our water utility is complacent. Our water utility department has heightened their security systems and procedures since the deadly and devastating terrorist attacks of September 11.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency and the American Red Cross recommends storing one gallon of water per person per day (two quarts for drinking, two quarts for food preparation/sanitation).
5. Are there things that residents should do to prepare for an emergency (i.e. store water, canned goods, medicine)?
Disasters happen anytime and anywhere. When disaster strikes, you may not have much time to respond. Some disasters may call for you and your family to evacuate (hurricanes, hazardous spills, fires). Other disasters could mean that you and your family may be confined at home. Preparing a Family Disaster Kit can help your family endure an evacuation or home confinement.
Prepare Your Kit
- Gather the supplies that are listed. You may need them if your family is confined at home or during an evacuation.
- Place the items you’d most likely need for an evacuation in an easy-to-carry container(s).
- There are basic items you should stock for your home: water, food, first aid supplies, clothing, bedding, tools & emergency supplies, special items (prescription & non-prescription medications, sanitary items, important documents).
- Store water in plastic containers. Avoid using milk cartons or glass bottles. A normally active person needs to drink at least two quarts of water daily. Hot environments and intense physical activity can double that amount. Children, nursing mothers, and ill people will need more.
- Store one (1) gallon of water per person per day. Keep at least a three day supply per person (for drinking, food preparation and sanitation)
Store at least a three-day supply of non-perishable food. Select foods that require no refrigeration, preparation or cooking, and little or no water. If you must heat food pack a can of sterno.
Pack the following foods which can also be taken with you during an evacuation:
- Ready teat canned meat, fruits, vegetables, and staples (salt, sugar, pepper, spices, etc.)
- Don’t forget a non-electric can opener.
- Canned juices, high-energy foods, vitamins, baby formula & bottles, and powered milk.
- Prescription medications: Store in waterproof container, keep prescription records (check shelf life) accessible and current. Bring a medicine dropper and cooler (if needed for RX)
- Dentures, contact lenses, and eyewear.
First Aid Kit
A well stocked first aid kit should include the following items:
- Sterile adhesive bandages in assorted sizes
- Latex gloves
- Scissors, tweezers, needle
- Moistened towelettes, antiseptic
- Tongue Blades
- Tube of petroleum jelly or other lubricant
- Non-Prescription Drugs:
- Aspirin or non-aspirin pain reliever.
- Anti-diarrhea medication,
Tools and Supplies
- Plastic storage containers, mess kits. Paper plates, cups, plastic utensils
- Shut off wrench, to turn off household gas and water
- Battery operated radio and flashlight with extra batteries
- Cash or traveler’s checks, change
- Utility Knife
- Non-electric can opener
- Pliers, tape, compass, needles, thread, signal flare, plastic sheeting or tent (for shelter)
- Paper, pencil, whistle map of area
- Toilet paper, baby diapers, soap, liquid detergent, personal hygiene items, disinfectant, household chlorine bleach.
- Plastic bucket with tight lid and plastic bags, ties (for personal sanitation uses)
- Games and Books for children
- Important family documents (keep in waterproof container)
Animal Emergency Preparedness Before a Disaster
- Ask friends, relatives, or others outside your area whether they could shelter your animals. If you have more than one pet, they may be more comfortable together; but be prepared to house them separately.
- Contact hotels and motels outside your immediate area to check policies on accepting pets and restrictions on number, size, and species. Ask if “no pet” policies could be waived in an emergency. Keep a list of “pet friendly” places, including phone numbers, with other disaster information and supplies.
- Prepare a list of boarding facilities and veterinarians who could shelter animals in an emergency. Included 24- hour phone numbers.
Create a Disaster Supply Kit for Pets
In the event of an emergency you may have to leave your home quickly. Your pet relies upon you to take care of him or her. Assemble this kit:
- Medications & medical records in waterproof container,
- Sturdy leases and/or carriers,
- A 3 day supply of food and potable water with bowls,
- A picture of your pet(s) in case they get lost,
- Information on feeding times medical and/or behavioral issues,
- Litter and litter box for cats,
- Pet beds & toys, if easy to transport.
Make sure all dogs and cats are wearing collars that are securely fastened and have ID tags containing up-to-date information.
6. Are there state or federal guidelines that outline appropriate reactions to specific types of emergencies, including an airborne chemical attack, nuclear explosion, contaminated water (i.e. go to your basement, top floor or shelter, drive west)? Where might residents get this information?
It will ultimately be the responsibility of the Federal government to investigate and provide long- term assistance in the event of any weapon of mass destruction (WMD) incident. As outlined in my earlier memo, first response activity will be conducted by local resources (police, fire. OEM).
We must keep in mind that acts of this nature are criminal and law enforcement personnel will be the lead agencies in any of these matters.
It is very difficult to establish set protocol for our civilian population to follow in the event of nuclear, biological or chemical (NBC) incidents.
It is important to realize that we must assess a wide range of threats and targets, each having its own response plan. It is also important for members of the public to be aware that by publishing our entire response document, we could, very well, compromise our ability to deflect these incidents.
Airborne Chemical Attack — Airborne chemical agents, although very deadly, are difficult to disperse and dissipate very quickly. The only effective way to deal with such incidents is through the use of highly trained personnel wearing protective clothing.
The public can best protect itself from this, by remembering the following:
- Chemical agents are colorless and cannot be seen by potential victims.
- Some agents do possess an odor. This information is only helpful to emergency personnel. Unfortunately, if you can smell it, you have already been exposed.
- In most cases, if exposed to a small amount of a chemical agent, you can be treated with a respectable level of success.
- In the event that you are in an area, such a shopping mall, and observe people gasping for air or falling to the ground for no obvious reasons, remember, do not attempt to render assistance.
- Immediately leave the facility that you are in, via the nearest exit in the opposite direction of the incident.
- If you have a cell phone, call 9-1-1 immediately; advise authorities of what you observed- supply as much detail as you can. This information is vital in organizing an appropriate emergency response.
- Once away from the effected area, ensure that you remain up-wind from the incident.
- Be alert for any secondary activity and avoid any large gathering of people after your evacuation.
Biological Agents — Biological agents affect water supplies, agriculture, livestock and humans and due to their variety and potentially long lasting effect, they are difficult to pinpoint until they have begun to spread.
The good news is that these agents are difficult to deliver on a large scale and most are treatable if discovered early.
The best defense against this type of attack is as follows:
- Do not consume water from unprotected or unfiltered water supplies. Our local water system is well protected and does not utilize ground water, making it extremely safe from contamination.
- Consume only livestock that has been approved by the F.D. A. and its package is marked with the appropriate U.S.D.A. markings.
- If common signs of illness are observed among any group, which shares common space, food supply or drinking water, consult the local Health Department. During cold and flu season, this will be a common occurrence, in the event that normal treatments or medicines do not resolve the illness, contact your own physician.
- Local authorities and physicians will report any patterns to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), who will ultimately track any unusual patterns.
- In the event that you observe any suspicious activity around food or water supplies, do not ignore it. Contact law enforcement immediately. It may be nothing, but we cannot be sure unless we investigate it.
Nuclear Attack — This type of incidence has a two-prong threat level, blast and radiation contamination, the levels and effect of these dangers will vary greatly, depending on magnitude and location.
- If prior warning is given and evacuation is possible, you would have to travel in a direction that is opposite of prevailing wind patterns, which in our case would normally be in a southwesterly direction, unless that is the effected area.
- In the event that little warning is given, or you observe the blast, seek the lowest lying shelter you can find. This can be a sub-basement or even mound of dirt. Lay prone on the ground with your feet facing the blast, arms tucked to your body and face down.
- After the initial blast, leave the area, travel, again opposite prevailing wind patterns. Ensure that you bring with you canned foods, bottled water and blankets.
- Do not consume any water from public water supplies, vegetation or livestock from any source within fifty (50) miles of the blast area.
- Seek police or military personnel for direction to shelters and areas for medical attention.
7. If there is an emergency during school hours, what is the emergency plan? What are the procedures for notifying parents? What is the policy if parents cannot be reached?
We currently have a response plan for a wide range of incidents involving our Borough Schools. The plans range from dealing with minor school related accidents to full-scale emergency evacuations.
For a variety of security reasons, it is not possible to outline the procedures which will be followed by school, police and emergency officials.
The plan includes possible relocation of children and the notification of parents. In the event that notification cannot be made, those students would remain the care of school or police officials.
At this time, the Superintendent and building principals, as well as police officials, are aware of our plans and training is scheduled for each of the entities included in this plan.
8. For more information: