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Annual Disaster Drills Helped Prepare for Sandy [AUDIO]

Although we knew Hurricane Sandy was on the way up from the Caribbean to the Garden State almost five days before she struck, officials say all the planning and prep in the world wouldn’t have stopped Mother Nature’s fury.

Emergency Drills
Emergency Drills (Allison Joyce, Getty Images)

Years of practice on the part of law enforcement officials from the state, counties and local municipalities have paid off as the cleanup and recovery effort is well under way.

In hindsight, you can say Hurricane Irene in August of 2011 was the teaser before the big event. When we think back to the damage she left behind, it pales in comparison to what Sandy did to our area last Monday. It’s hard to believe it’s been a full week. Feels so long ago for many considering much of the state remains in the dark going on for an eighth day and there are still long lines at gas stations and plenty of rubble to sift through.

Each year around New Jersey, emergency management offices conduct controlled drills for all natural and man-made disasters. They range from hurricanes, wildfires, nuclear accidents, earthquakes, tornadoes and even acts of terrorism. Sergeant Keith Reinhard has been in law enforcement for 19 years. Right now, he’s with the Brick Township Police Department. He says each of these drills usually involve controlled situations in real time. Unfortunately, “Mother Nature knows no boundaries.”

Reinhard says “drills and exercises sharpen our skills at the all levels. The lessons learned and the practice makes the department better prepared to handle all hazards. This goes for every department around the state. We need this hands on training. It’s vital during times of crisis. We are seeing that first hand right now but sadly, it isn’t a simulation.”

Ironically, it was only back in August of this year when Brick Township held a full-scale disaster drill with Ocean Medical Center. The scenario? A hurricane with a massive power outage and evacuation. Little did anyone know, the exercise would help save lives during Sandy. Many of the skills that were practiced recently are really coming in handy now.

Reinhard says “no matter how much preparation, there’s nothing like being there for the real thing. Because the weather is unpredictable, we have to always be on guard and ready to mobilize.”

With each drill and real life event, they learn new concepts that are applied. Reinhard just hopes when they eventually have their briefing when Sandy’s cleanup operation is complete, that they won’t have to deal with such destruction again.

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