Sparta Township Emergency Preparedness Initiative (STEP)
By: Christine Quinn, Mayor, Sparta Township / Co-Founder, STEP Initiative
Along with devastation and destruction, Hurricane Sandy brought with it many lessons learned for community leaders along the East Coast. From these lessons, invaluable insight was gained. Insight which led municipalities to review and improvelocal emergency preparedness procedures.
During and throughout Hurricane Sandy - Sparta OEM (Office of Emergency Management):Sparta Police, Sparta Township Administration / Staff and Sparta Emergency Responders (Fire / Ambulance); deployed methodically, in accordance with a detailed plan put in place long before Sandy arrived. For residents; it was a much different story. Without clear knowledge of how to prepare for and/or respond to an event of such magnitude, Sparta residents struggled to mitigate loss, stay informed, remain aware of how to access critical services and maintain basic quality of living (some without water, power and/or fuel for up to two weeks). In short, similar to the OEM plan, it was clear that Sparta Township Residents also needed a plan.
Early in 2013 the STEP (Sparta Township Emergency Preparedness) Initiative was created to meet this need. Co-Founders Christine Quinn (Sparta Township Mayor) and Chief Ernie Reigstad (Sparta OEM)presented the concept, which was immediately and unanimously approved for immediate implementation by Sparta Township Council. By resolution, the STEP Initiative falls under the Sparta OEM, with operational oversight coordinated through its’ Steering Committee (comprised of key stakeholders within the municipality / community as well as critical service providers such as JCP&L and Eastern Propane).
There are three core components of civilian readiness and reaction addressed within the STEP initiative.Together, the components provide a framework which supports civilian preparedness, mitigation of loss, and response – Before, During and Afterany incident / event.
BEFORE:The Public Safety Commission, is designed to evaluate, coordinate and implement pro-active communication and education surrounding emergency avoidance and preparedness. Implementation of the LEAD (Law Enforcement Against Drugs) program; and targeted public service announcements, are just some of the objectives proposed for 2016.
DURING: The implementation of Go2Centers, The Sparta Township Honeywell Alert System and the Sparta INFO line have been implemented to support Sparta Residents during and throughout any emergency event. Each of these components is activated by and through order from the Sparta OEM. Go2centers provide residents with a safe location where they can power up electronic devices, get information and cool down / heat up (depending on the weather). The Township Honeywell System and INFO line serve to support communications between Sparta OEM / Town Hall and its’ residents.
AFTER:The Sparta CERT (Community Emergency Response Team), under the direction of Alex Kloian, is comprised of civilian responders who are trainedaccording to FEMA mandates. Once activated (by order from the Sparta OEM), members of the CERT team “report to support” emergency responders as deemed necessary and assigned.
Additional information, (including information on how to join the CERT), can be found on the Sparta Township Website www.spartanj.org.