This has been an extraordinary time in Union County history, and we’ve seen some extraordinary things.
We’ve seen the worst of the damage and destruction that a powerful storm can bring, first with Hurricane Sandy and then with the nor’easter Athena.
We’ve also seen the best of human nature, as Union County residents pulled together to keep each other safe at the height of the danger.
So many people have been involved in the response and recovery that it’s impossible to thank them all, so I’d just like to say that as a lifelong resident of Union County I could not be more proud to say that this place is my home.
We’re not out of the woods yet. Tragically, two deaths in Union County have been attributed to the storm, and people are still suffering.
But we’re getting there.
And now, as we put our communities back in order, it is time to take a look at how we pulled through, and how we will prepare for the next time.
From the perspective of County government, one thing that stands out is the cooperation we received from local officials, which helped us to get our resources out quickly to communities in need.
That included extra help from County first responders and tree crews as well as fuel, fuel pumps, generators and light towers, to name just a few examples.
We also worked together to assist local emergency shelters, and we opened the Union County Regional Shelter in Cranford with the Red Cross and Salvation Army. Special thanks go to the town of Cranford, its citizens and government officials, for making their community center available.
Communication was another critical endeavor. We mobilized the County website and social media, reverse 911, FirstAlert and other lines of communication to stay in constant touch with local officials and reporters as well as individual citizens.
Those efforts also assisted County Clerk Joanne Rajoppi and her staff, as they overcame unprecedented circumstances during a presidential election to keep residents informed and ensure that every Union County voter who wanted to cast a ballot, could do so.
On a nice note, right between the two storms a pair of EMTs with our new countywide ambulance service delivered a baby girl in Rahway, who was in such a big hurry to enter this world that she could not wait for mom to get to the hospital.
Clearly, one focus moving forward will be a redoubling of efforts to develop an even more vigorous county-local shared services network. We need to identify what worked and move swiftly to fill any gaps.
Just as clearly, we also need to expand our attention outward to the state and federal level.
There is no question that fuel shortages and long-running power outages added overwhelming burdens to Union County residents and first responders. While some limited solutions may be available locally, the root of the problem can only be addressed through a coordinated national energy policy.
Union County will conduct a series of "after action" planning sessions to learn what was done well and when could have be improved. We learned a lot and are better prepared as a result.
By working together and planning ahead, we can ensure that Union County will be prepared to meet the next “storm of the century,” withstand its blows, and keep moving forward.