All levels of Morris County government participated in a fully functional, successful exercise April 30 that had the county prepare and respond to the landfall of a fictional category four major hurricane.
The day-long exercise, under the auspices of the Regional Catastrophic Planning Team, involved more than 100 county government employees and their critical partners, and was intended to validate emergency response plans, policies, procedures and agreements should a large scale disaster occur.
“The exercise offered all levels of government and its critical partners the opportunity to demonstrate an increased readiness to deal with a catastrophe,” said Morris County Freeholder Director Tom Mastrangelo. “This was the first time that we have conducted a functional exercise of this magnitude, and it certainly was an all hands on deck exercise.”
The drill involved preparations and response to the landfall of Hurricane Jack, a fictitious category 4 major hurricane, which made a direct hit on the New York-New Jersey-Connecticut region.
The mock direct hit resulted in the county having to respond to scenarios that ranged from building collapses and multiple fatalities to severe flooding and search and rescue operations.
Under the drill, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management started to watch the storm track on Thursday, April 24, and began coordinating plans with all of the county’s Emergency Support Function partners and distributing information about the storm track as well as other related information.
The mock functional exercise began in earnest within the county’s Emergency Operations Center on April 30 at 9:00 a.m., at the height of the storm.
“This placed an immediate demand on the functions within Morris County and many supporting agencies, said Jeffrey S. Paul, director of the county’s Office of Emergency Management The exercise also served to clarify roles and responsibilities and identify resource gaps in an operational environment related to a large-scale disaster at one or more locations involving one or more agencies, Paul said.
Freeholder Doug Cabana, liaison to the Morris County Department of Law and Public Safety, said the county has been fine-tuning its emergency response plans ever since Hurricanes Irene and Sandy came through the area.
The catastrophic scenario that was used for Wednesday’s exercise was designed to push our joint capabilities to the limit,” Cabana, who observed the exercise, said. “I can think of no better way to make sure our county is ready for a worst case scenario.”
Outside agencies such as the Red Cross and Jersey Central Power and Light were also involved in the exercise.