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Verizon, FEMA, PSE&G, Perth Amboy Join Red Cross for PrepareAthon

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L-R: Mathieu Nelessen (Red Cross), Michael Wagner (FEMA), Mayor Wilda Diaz (Perth Amboy), Loroine McKnight (Verizon Wireless), Paul Sullivan (Verizon) and Eileen Leahy (PSE&G). See below for full caption.

By taking steps to prepare for disasters, we help to create a more resilient New Jersey.

In recognition of National PrepareAthon Day, the American Red Cross, FEMA, Verizon and PSE&G joined with Mayor Wilda Diaz and the City of Perth Amboy to emphasize the importance of disaster preparedness, emergency communications and volunteerism at an event held Tuesday, September 30 in Perth Amboy.

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National PrepareAthon Day focuses on increasing community emergency preparedness and participation in planning and drills and marks the culmination of National Preparedness Month. 

The City of Perth Amboy hosted the event at Seabra’s The Armory, where emergency response vehicles, including a fire truck, police van and fire safety trailer were on display alongside Verizon’s 53-foot long Mobile Communications Calling Center, the Red Cross prototype for the new Next Generation Emergency Response Vehicle and a PSE&G crisis response trailer. 

Mathieu Nelessen, regional CEO with the American Red Cross North Jersey Region, stressed the importance of taking steps now to prepare for future emergencies, including developing a family emergency plan.

“Having a regularly practiced emergency plan in place ensures all members of your family know what to do should a disaster strike,” said Nelessen. “By taking steps as individuals and families to prepare for disasters, we help to create a more resilient and better prepared New Jersey.”

Perth Amboy experienced significant destruction during Superstorm Sandy, including approximately $5.5 million in damages to the city’s Harborside Marina, which re-opened in September. 

“We know firsthand the importance of taking safety measures and preparedness to keep our community safe and well-informed during an emergency,” said Mayor Wilda Diaz.

Michael Wagner, preparedness branch chief with FEMA, discussed how being prepared in advance of an emergency can reduce the negative impact of disaster and help communities recover more quickly.

The event showcased tools and resources to help people better prepare for disasters. Red Cross volunteers showed visitors how to create an emergency kit, develop an emergency plan and demonstrated the Red Cross suite of free mobile apps that put information about what to do before, during and after a disaster in the palm of your hand.

The apps include a “Make A Plan” feature that provides step-by-step guidance to help families develop a customized emergency plan. A one-touch “I’m safe” messaging feature allows users to instantly broadcast reassurance -- via pre-set contacts for text, email and social media channels -- to family and friends that they are out of harm’s way. The apps are available in English and Spanish for Apple and Android devices and can be downloaded in the Apple App Store or Google Play.

Representatives from Verizon, Verizon Wireless and PSE&G discussed how they prepare for and respond to disasters affecting their customers and the communities they serve. 

 Paul Sullivan, region operations president for Verizon New Jersey, discussed how the company prepares for events that could affect its networks and the services it makes available for emergency responders and communities. 

“Planning and preparation are our best tools to manage effectively through severe weather or natural disasters,” said Sullivan. “As one of New Jersey’s largest providers of communications services, we know that for many people, when there is an emergency, they rely on Verizon to keep in touch with friends, family, the workplace and others. At Verizon, we focus regularly on emergency preparedness and communications, so we can respond to the needs of our customers.”

Following a disaster, Verizon’s Crisis Response Fleet, which includes a 51-foot mobile command center, can be deployed to either coast within 24 hours. The Crisis Response Fleet supports first responders, government agencies and non-profit organizations during emergencies. The program offers a nationwide hotline answered live 24/7, emergency communication centers that feature charging stations and Internet access, and a fleet of emergency mobile wireless assets to provide wireless connectivity during a disaster. 

In the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy, the Verizon’s Crisis Response Fleet deployed 23 emergency wireless assets, 132 portable generators and 2,000 data and phone devices throughout the New York Metro region to support local municipalities and residents affected by the storm.

“At Verizon Wireless, we run to a crisis, not away from a crisis,” said Loroine McKnight, regional data sales director for Verizon Wireless. “Our crisis management teams regularly prepare for and test our ability to respond to emergency situations, so that we can consistently provide high-quality wireless service to our customers.”

As New Jersey’s largest utility, PSE&G has always made storm preparedness priority. When a storm hits, PSE&G crews work tirelessly around the clock to safely restore power; however, the company’s preparedness efforts expand beyond immediate response. The utility has upgraded its social media capabilities to stay in contact with customers about outages and is investing in its infrastructure to make it more resilient against severe weather.  

“PSE&G’s Energy Strong program has been underway since May - hardening our electric and gas systems against the kind of severe weather we’ve experienced in our state in recent years,” said Eileen Leahy, director of external affairs for PSE&G. “We’ve made a $1.2 billion investment to upgrade 29 substations that were flooded during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy and we’ve already started modernizing 250 miles of cast iron gas mains that were in or near flood areas. These improvements will make our system stronger and more resilient in the face of future storms.”

When disaster strikes, the American Red Cross fleet of emergency response vehicles are ready to carry disaster workers and supplies to affected neighborhoods, providing food, water and comfort to those in need. The Red Cross has more than 320 emergency response vehicles in the U.S. that get help to people in need after disasters big and small, from coastal communities devastated by Superstorm Sandy to every day home fires down the street.

Following a disaster, a large volume of volunteers are needed to effectively staff disaster operations. Nelessen encouraged individuals to help better prepare their community for future disasters by becoming a volunteer and receiving the necessary training to step forward immediately to assist during times of disaster. For information on Red Cross volunteer opportunities or to become a volunteer, visit redcross.org/volunteer

Assemblywoman Annette Quijano, chair of the Assembly Committee on Homeland Security and State Preparedness, reminded the audience that preparedness is important all year long and encouraged everyone to spread the word about being better prepared.

For more information about emergency preparedness, including helpful tips for families, organizations and businesses, visit redcross.org/prepare. Verizon includes updates on preparations for and responses to hurricanes or other serious natural or man-made events at verizon.com/news.

Pictured above L-R: Mathieu Nelessen, regional CEO, American Red Cross; Michael Wagner, preparedness branch chief, FEMA Region II; Honorable Wilda Diaz, mayor of the City of Perth Amboy; Loroine McKnight, regional data sales director, Verizon Wireless; Paul Sullivan, regional president of operations, Verizon New Jersey; and Eileen Leahy, director of public affairs, PSE&G.