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Disasters & Emergencies - Help & Information
DHS partners with many agencies to ensure safety for citizens and employees when disaster strikes...Since the Department of Human Services serves one in eight citizens of New Jersey in one way or another, DHS must always be prepared and have plans for all of its facilities, staff and consumer services whenever disaster or emergency situations arise.
For disaster and emergency preparedness and services, DHS relies upon its own administrative Office of Emergency Management (OEM) and immediately calls upon the mental health counseling services of Division of Mental Health Services' Disaster & Terrorism Branch (DTB).
OEM also works with the DHS Police when evacuation or law enforcement is needed. It also notifies DHS staff through its internal Portal intranet when emergencies -- especially weather forecasts of hurricanes, flooding, sleet and snow storms, wild fire conditions, etc.-- are on the horizon.
Recent examples of DHS preparedness: OEM and DTB professionals were on hand to aid citizens during such emergencies as the Liberty State Park family reception center after the 9-11 attacks on the World Trade Center; the 1999 floods from Hurricane Floyd; the wild fires in Wharton State Forest; and the evacuation of U.S. citizens from Lebanon who were processed through Newark Liberty International Airport and through McGuire AFB.
If an emergency is far from New Jersey but possibly affecting friends and relatives of New Jersey citizens, OEM and DTB can spearhead multi-language alerts and fact sheets via the DHS website, as it did for disaster aid information and donations for survivors of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
Partnering with the NJ Office of Emergency Management...As a member of the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management (NJOEM), the DHS OEM is the our department's first responder, whether for health or weather emergencies, manmade calamities, state or national emergencies, or any other unforeseen disasters.
The DHS OEM regularly meets with the NJOEM and constantly monitors the National Weather Service, National Hurricane Alert System, FEMA, the Department of Homeland Security, the NJ State Police, and other public safety, emergency, and first responder agencies. Then it sees that preparations are in place, then implemented, at all affected DHS facilities in an emergency - so that consumers and staff are not in harm's way.
People with Special Needs Should Be "Ready" for Emergencies...DHS serves New Jersey's most vulnerable citizens, so special needs must always be taken into consideraton during an emergency.
It is also important that people with disabilities sign up with New Jersey's special needs registry so that first responders and community providers have an up-to-date list of where to find them in the case of an emergency.
This helps formulate evacuation plans, identifies people who will need accessible shelter or transportation, and improves accessible notification or alert systems for such citizens. Go to Register Ready to sign up for this emergency preparedness system.
Consider what needs to happen during a disaster situation…
- A calamity near one of our developmental centers requires careful evacuation and continuation of food, shelter and services for fragile consumers with developmental disabilities… as well as constant communication with their families and health professionals… as well as making sure staff is secure and able to work
- State shutdowns due to hurricanes or blizzards mean food stamps, welfare checks and Medicaid benefits must continue to be processed and distributed to citizens in need… and 24-7 service in our residential facilities (developmental centers and psychiatric hospitals) must continue… so essential staff must be able to get to work or stay at work and keep systems running
- A weather power outage at a psychiatric hospital means that special diets and medications must be safeguarded from spoilage and that hospital residents must be comforted and reassured by a prepared staff
- A toxic accident or attack at one of New Jersey's many chemical plants means sending mental health counselors onto the scene and or into the community to counsel victims and their families, as well as counseling for fire, police and hazmat first responders who go into harm's way to perform rescue operations.
- State or national alerts mean that DHS must be the watchdog department that ensures our deaf, hard of hearing, blind, visually impaired and disability populations receive the alerts and updates in accessible formats and that emergency sheltering includes accessible accommodations
- Mass evacuations mean coordinating with relief agencies for shelter, food, personal hygiene supplies and special accommodations for special needs consumers, as well as ensuring that staff can continue providing services and also know that their own families are safe and secure
There are very few emergencies or disasters that do not touch DHS consumers and/or staff. DHS is almost always involved in some way.
Division Information...Disaster Preparedness for People with Disabilities and Their Families
DDD Crisis Response System
Emergency Medicaid Payment for Aliens
Types of Emergencies and How to Prepare...