Some North Brunswick residents were awakened Wednesday morning by a loud knock at their doors. North Brunswick Township officials notified them that they needed to evacuate their homes due to smoke from an industrial fire burning at a neighboring warehouse.
The American Red Cross North Jersey Region was contacted by the North Brunswick Office of Emergency Management (OEM) to open a reception center at nearby Linwood Middle School. Disaster responders stepped forward to help provide a safe and comfortable place for families to gather to receive updates about the fire.
Throughout the day more than 110 people checked into the reception center to receive information, chat with their neighbors, have a cup of coffee or enjoy a meal provided by the North Brunswick School District.
While being evacuated, resident Wilda Irizarry wouldn’t consider leaving home without her beloved dog, Chero. Chero was cared for at the school by the Middlesex County Animal Response Team (CART).CART set up a room near the reception center to house family pets.
“Thank you for taking such good care my Chero,” Irizarry told CART volunteers helping care for the animals.
Wednesday evening, officials determined it would not be safe for families to return home that night. The Red Cross in partnership with North Brunswick Township and the Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) transitioned the reception center into a shelter. While all families found a place to stay, the shelter remained open out of concern that shifting winds could cause smoke to affect additional residences and generate further evacuations.
“The lesson I learned from this is that you have to be prepared in life, you have to be prepared for the unexpected in life,” said resident Regina Sawyer.
The Red Cross encourages everyone to make preparedness a priority and take the following steps to ensure their family is prepared for disasters large and small.
GET A KIT Being prepared means being equipped with the proper supplies you may need in the event of an emergency or disaster including a three-day supply of food and water, a week’s worth of medications, copies of personal documents and other essential items. Consider the needs of all members of the household, including pets, and customize your kit accordingly. Keep your supplies in an easy-to-carry emergency preparedness kit that you can use at home or take with you in case you must evacuate.
MAKE A PLAN Everyone in the household should help put the emergency plan together so they know what they should do if something occurs. Because everyone may not be together at home when a disaster happens, the plan should include ways to contact one another and two places to meet – one near the home in case of a sudden emergency like a fire, and one outside the neighborhood in case circumstances prevent people from returning home. The plan should also identify an emergency contact person from outside the area in case local telephone lines are overloaded or out of service.
Any emergency plan should also include decisions about where to go if ordered to evacuate and what route to take to get there. It’s a good idea to include alternate routes in case roads are closed. Don’t forget family pets. Make sure to include plans for them such as pet-friendly hotels and animal shelters along the evacuation route.
BE INFORMED Learn about local hazards and how to prepare for and what to do in the event of different types of disasters.
DOWNLOAD MOBILE APPS The Red Cross has developed mobile apps that provide information on what to do before, during and after emergencies, including a “Make a Plan” feature on how to develop an emergency plan. Another important feature in the disaster apps allows users to let family and friends quickly know they are safe with a customizable “I’m Safe” alert for Facebook, Twitter, email and text. The free apps are available in English and Spanish and can be downloaded from the Apple App Store and the Google Play Store for Android by searching for American Red Cross.
For additional emergency preparedness information, including free tools available for individuals and families to help better prepare for disasters and emergencies, visit redcross.org/prepare.