Atlantic County Government
palm trees blowing in hurricane force winds


NJ Office of Emergency Management        


Colonel Rick Fuentes 
Superintendent, New Jersey State Police
State Director of Emergency Management
Major Dennis McNulty
Commanding Officer, Emergency Management
Mary Goepfert
(609) 963-6818 

Norman A. Smith


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:                                                                                 May 24, 2011




West Trenton, NJ –  It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week, and the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management is partnering with the NJ Statewide Independent Living Council (SILC) to promote and improve emergency preparedness for people with disabilities.   Planning strategies include increasing the availability of specialized equipment for use during emergencies, strengthening the disaster resilience of social service agencies, and encouraging individuals with disabilities to plan for their own safety.

“Our goal is inclusion of people with disabilities in emergency preparedness, and insuring access and integration of people with functional needs into all our emergency management activities,” said State Police Superintendent Colonel Rick Fuentes, Director of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management.  “Every life matters.  We need to reverse the trend of people with disabilities being disproportionately impacted by disasters. We have a legal - but more importantly - an ethical obligation to do so.”  

“This partnership is vital if people with disabilities are to increase their chances of being disaster survivors instead of disaster victims,” said Norman A. Smith, Chair of the NJ SILC. “The New Jersey disability community is showing leadership in emergency preparedness, and will continue to be a resource for New Jersey’s emergency management personnel.  And if you are a person with a disability who believes in the philosophy of independent living, then act on the need to prepare for adverse conditions, to the best extent possible.”         

New Jersey’s disability preparedness effort is part of the national “whole community” planning strategy, in which individuals with access and functional needs are accounted for in emergency plans.  People with access and functional needs typically have issues related to transportation, communication, maintaining independence, supervision, or medical needs, which present additional challenges during a disaster response.

The New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, in partnership with the NJ SILC and other advocacy groups and service providers, has taken a multi-tiered approach to whole community planning:

Consumer- Based Strategies – Persons with disabilities may need to adapt family preparedness measures to meet their unique situation.   This means showing others how to operate a wheelchair or other assistive devices, back-up planning for interruptions in support services, adapting go-kit items for specific needs, supplies for service animals, or making  arrangements with friends and family who can help when a crisis hits.

State and Local Emergency Planning – New Jersey’s County Offices of Emergency Management are currently upgrading county disaster plans to include people with access and functional needs.   Through a competitive grant, the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management has made $21,400 in funding available to each of the following counties:   Atlantic, Cumberland, Gloucester, Mercer, Salem, Somerset and Warren, for the purchase of specialized shelter supplies, training, and planning efforts aimed at improving disability response.  Bergen, Mercer and Cape May Counties have conducted Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) Program training which is inclusive of persons with disabilities.       

Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters - New Jersey's Special Needs Registry for Disasters, a free, voluntary and confidential program designed to assist people with special needs who may find it difficult to get to safety in the event of an emergency.  People with special needs (or caregivers on their behalf) are encouraged to register through  Alternatively, they can call New Jersey’s toll-free 2-1-1 telephone service. This service will register people, offer free translation, and provide TTY services for the hearing-impaired.

Working with Service Providers – New Jersey social service agencies and advocacy groups are key stakeholders in the state’s disaster resilience strategy; and they continue to demonstrate leadership in emergency preparedness, in a variety of settings.  The Progressive Center for Independent Living (PCIL), which serves Mercer and Hunterdon Counties, has developed worked with the American Red Cross to get persons with disabilities certified as Community Disaster Educators.  The PCIL also offers training to emergency personnel who respond to accidents involving disabled drivers in adapted vehicles.  The NJ Institute for Disabilities, Disability Rights NJ and Quality Insights Renal Network counsel their consumers on personal disaster planning.  “Senior CERT” is offered through Leading Age New Jersey, Easter Seals NJ has worked on the issue of disaster business continuity initiatives for social service providers, and the Salvation Army is working on specialized menus for medical needs shelters.

“It’s no coincidence that all of these organizations are members of the New Jersey Special Needs Advisory Panel,” Smith said.   The NJ Special Needs Advisory Panel is an advisory board to the NJOEM and NJ Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness regarding issues affecting access and functional needs populations.  “Information-sharing, planning and education are the foundations to emergency plans which are inclusive, realistic and accessible to all community members.”  

For more information:

Individual and Family Preparedness for Persons with Disabilities and Seniors:

NJOEM Access and Functional Needs Page

Register Ready – New Jersey’s Special Needs Registry for Disasters

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