September is National Preparedness Month (NPM) and beginning today, the Townsquare News Network will present a month-long series on how you can get you and your family ready for any eventuality.

Bruce Bieber of Cape May, New Jersey boards up a pizza shop in preparation for Hurricane Sandy October 27, 2012 in Cape May, New Jersey. (Photo by William Thomas Cain/Getty Images)

The nationwide initiative was launched back in 2004 as a result of the 9/11 terrorist attacks. It has since grown into an initiative that covers everything from natural or man-made disasters, storms and any other threat including nuclear accidents. The goal is to be prepared ahead of time to stave off potential problems and keep you and your family and friends safe.

In the last three years, New Jersey has seen a crippling blizzard, two hurricanes, an earthquake, a tornado, derecho rain storms and even a small tsunami. In part one of our series, we take an in-depth look at being informed. It's a critical element of any preparedness plan and something most of us don't take seriously.

Emergencies can strike at anytime with or without warning. In some cases, the dangers that loom can be seen days before, like a coming storm. Imagine how things would have been if we had no warning that Superstorm Sandy was upon us until after. Would there have been more casualties? More property damage? Most likely, the answer is yes.

Other incidents like a nuclear accident or act of terrorism can't be seen on any radar screen. This makes being informed even more critical both before, during and after any type of crisis.

Leslie Terjesen with the Ocean County Health Department came into Townsquare Media's Toms River studios recently for an extended talk on NPM. During our discussion, she covered a lot of ground including the importance of media outlets, including Townsquare, and how the spread of the correct information is vital at all times in any type of conditions. Turning a blind eye to the news and weather reports is never a good idea.

"You don't want to have your heads in the sand when things are getting bad. There are too many variables and too many chances for things to go wrong," she explained.

"That's why staying informed on a regular basis is important. Most of us learned the hard way during Hurricane Irene two years ago and Sandy almost a year ago that time is never really on your side during a storm. The same can hold true for any other emergency."

In addition to listening to radio news, checking the internet and watching TV news updates, Terjesen and other health and emergency management officials say everyone should sign up for phone, e-mail and text alerts.

"We are very fortunate to be in an age where technology moves at a rapid pace and so do those important messages. Some communities use Nixle or reverse 911. We feel you should be on the chain as a precaution. It's also the first step in making your plan, which we will cover in the coming weeks."

For the communities around the state that don't use the emergency alert messages, some have Facebook and Twitter feeds you can like and follow to get the messages from officials. But what happens when the power goes out? Remember Sandy? Some were in the dark for several weeks, almost a month. Having a battery powered radio can be your lifeline to critical and lifesaving information when there's trouble brewing outside.

The good news is the Garden State has measures in place for everything - from another Sandy to a nuclear meltdown at one of the many plants to even a similar attack to the Boston Marathon bombings or 9/11. Officials advise you to get familiar with your community's plan and learn the evacuation routes ahead of time.

"The more prepared you are with knowledge of these things, the more apt you'll be at making the right decision when thinking can be cloudy due to fear and intimidation. Stay up to date and stay informed."

Residents are urged to follow all instructions from their local leaders and when in doubt, you can call your county's office of emergency management to talk about your concerns.

For more information, visit The Ocean County Health Department's website. For specifics on how to be better prepared, visit