Legislation Designed to Improve Coastal Evacuations [AUDIO]
In the coming weeks the Jersey Assembly is expected to pass legislation that's designed to improve evacuation plans up and down the Jersey shore in the event of a catastrophic event or natural disaster, such as a hurricane or nor'easter.
Assemblyman Nelson Albano, one of the prime sponsors of the bill, says after hurricane Irene slammed the Garden state back in August, it became apparent that some evacuation procedures needed to be improved - and those ideas have been incorporated into the legislation, including "making sure that the tolls are shut down - so people are free to flow through the tolls, one-way traffic going out of the shore areas and not coming in."
He says the measure also stipulates that newly constructed schools "would be able to hold people in case of an evacuation - where some of the schools weren't ready to do this…different buildings would be constructed to make sure that they would be able to handle the kind of people that would be coming in from the shore areas in an emergency evacuation…I know that when the Governor gets the bill at his desk he's going to sign it because of the almost catastrophic storm that we had."
The legislation would also require the Office of Emergency Management to develop an annual public awareness program to educate the public on the state's plan to evacuate Jersey's coastal areas during emergencies; require the OEM to ensure consistency among evacuation plans of coastal counties by coordinating with county OEMs and the American Red Cross to revise inconsistent plans; and require the OEM to work with each county emergency management coordinator to identify critical infrastructure that would need an alternative emergency power generator.
Albano says when hurricane Irene hit at the end of August, "there were people evacuated from the shore in buses that were actually sent to the wrong areas - they were sent to schools and government buildings that were already full - there was a lack of communication on where to actually hold these people over - there was a lack of communication on how to feed people - the crowds that were there…the last thing that we want to see in this state is people having to leave the shore areas before they really have to…and the most important thing is public safety - we have to make sure that there is not a loss of life."
The legislation- also sponsored by Assemblyman Matt Milam -was been released by the Assembly Appropriations Committee, and was already passed by the full state Senate earlier this year.