Processes of the Borough
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.