Beginning today, Union County will be among 10 storm-damaged counties studied by the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
According to an annoucement from the Office of Gov. Chris Christie, the conditions of the Oct. 29 surprise snowstorm that led the governor to declare a state of emergency for the entire state on the day of the storm. The joint preliminary damage assessments also will be conducted in Bergen, Essex, Hunterdon, Middlesex, Morris, Passaic, Somerset, Sussex, and Warren counties.
The assessment process is used to determine the impact and magnitude of damage caused by a disaster. It summarizes needs of residents, businesses, and the community as a whole. The joint assessment involves collecting, evaluating and documenting damages, which are the first steps in the process for obtaining federal assistance for New Jersey’s residents and its affected municipalities.
“In many areas of the state, the damage caused by the storm on Halloween weekend was worse than Irene,” said Gov. Christie. “High winds, rain, snow, and mixed freezing precipitation, along with coastal, stream and river flooding and downed trees and power lines, led to the loss of power for 750,000 utility customers and damage around the state.”
He said on Monday, “County, state and federal emergency management officials will start the process of assessing that damage and determining if the appropriate thresholds are met to seek federal relief for New Jersey residents and their governments.”
The state advises that residents and business owners who have experienced property damage as a result of the storm should contact their insurance companies and open claims for damages. All municipal and county officials should continue to work with their respective offices of emergency management and gather data and damage reports that will be forwarded to the state for review.
The assessment teams are made up of personnel from the Office of Emergency Management, FEMA, the U.S. Small Business Administration, and county and local emergency management agencies. The teams will review the types of damage or emergency costs incurred by the state and the impact to critical facilities and infrastructure, including: roads, bridges, public utilities, hospitals, schools, and fire and police departments.
The team will also assess the impact on individuals and businesses, including the extent of the damage, the number of people displaced, and the threat to health and safety caused by the incident. Additional data from the Red Cross or other local voluntary agencies may also be reviewed. During the assessment, the team will document eligible estimates of the expenses and damages.
These assessments are the first step in determining whether the disaster is of such severity and impact that it is beyond the capabilities of the state and local governments and that federal assistance is necessary.
The assessments are typically used as the basis for a state governor’s request for a major disaster. It shows the cost of response efforts, including emergency personnel overtime and other emergency services, and damage to public and private property that is beyond state and local recovery capabilities.
For more information regarding disaster recovery and the PDA process please access the following web resources:
- NJ 2-1-1 Call Center: Call 2-1-1 or click www.nj211.org; Free 24-hour statewide service - putting people in need of assistance, in-touch with people who can help.
- Disaster Related Stress: NJ Disaster Mental Health Helpline — Counceling and support for people affected by disasters or other overwhelming events is available by calling New Jersey MentalHealthCares' Disaster Mental Health Helpline toll free at 877-294-HELP (4357), where experienced crisis counselors can be reached. A TTY line is also available at 877-294-4356.
- FEMA Background Information: www.fema.go
- Disaster Declaration Process: http://www.fema.gov/hazard/dproc.shtm
- PDA's: http://www.fema.gov/rebuild/recover/pda.shtm
- Individual Assistance Info:http://www.fema.gov/assistance/process/individual_assistance.shtm
- Public Assistance Info: http://www.fema.gov/government/grant/pa/index.shtm