The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's National Weather Service has recognized more than 200 Simon-owned and operated malls and outlets nationwide and more than 20 in New Jersey as "storm ready."

Simon employees already had been trained in general preparedness and communications, but it wasn't until key staff members had undergone specialized training designed by the NWS that the "storm ready" recognition was earned, according to Janet Porter, area general manager for the Jersey Shore Premium Outlets in Tinton Falls.

Porter said the malls would keep open lines of communication with the NWS at all times during a serious storm.

"We have several people on our property that have been trained to be weather spotters. In addition, we have great communication network to our tenants in the mall and to our shoppers at any given time," she said. "Basically, it just really prepares us to offer the safest conditions for anyone that happens to be in our mall during an incoming storm event."

That includes being prepared to become 'a shelter in place' if necessary at all Simon locations, such as the Jackson Premium Outlets, the Ocean County Mall in Toms River, and Jersey Gardens in Elizabeth, according to Porter.

"If it's safer, and if they have time, to get in their cars and get home, we would let them know that. It's all about knowing what's going to happen based on our training and our communications with the National Weather Service," Porter said.

She said out that the outlets in Tinton Falls serve as one of the biggest gathering spots in Monmouth County. The mall in Toms River does so for Ocean County.

"So, we want to make sure that any of the visitors that happen to be on our property are safe and secure while visiting us. Safety of our patrons and our tenants and our staff members is of the utmost importance," Porter said.

During Hurricane Sandy in 2012, many of the Simon properties in New Jersey were impacted by loss of power and flooding, and prior training did come into play during the Super storm, according to Porter, but she added that because Sandy was so widely communicated to the general public, they didn't have many shoppers in their malls and outlets since many people were already hunkered down and preparing for it.

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