Hurricaneville continues to investigate the Hurricane Problem in the New York and New Jersey region by taking a look at another federal program to help communities in their efforts to prevent large losses of life and heavy property damage. This time it is the National Weather Service, which has offices in New York City and Mount Holly, New Jersey.
The Mount Holly, New Jersey office is the NWS office that provides forecasts and storm related information for the region that Hurricaneville is located. This office as well as all National Weather Service offices throughout the country have initiated a program called StormReady, which is designed to help communities be able to respond faster to impending severe weather in their area.
To become a StormReady certified community, a city or town must be able to meet certain criteria established by the National Weather Service to indicate that a town is ready and prepared for a severe weather situation. That doesn't mean that it is storm proof since storms are still capable of causing damage no matter how prepared a city or town may be.
There are several communities through Mount Holly's forecast region that participate in the StormReady program including the town of Avalon, New Jersey, which is located in Cape May County. Avalon also participates in FEMA's Project Impact program, which helps them work to improve hazard mitigation. So this New Jersey coastal community is making big strides in improving its hurricane preparedness.
The mission of the StormReady program is particularly designed to assisting "America's communities with the communication and safety skills that are necessary to save lives and property". StormReady was created in response for a need to prevent terrible disasters like the one that happened in May, 1999 when a series of tornadoes struck Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
According to the StormReady page at the National Weather Service web site, about 90% of all president declared disasters are weather related, resulting in approximately 600 deaths and some $15 billion dollars in damage per year. StormReady provides communities with an action plan that responds to any type of severe weather that may affect their area.
This includes coastal storms such as hurricanes. The entire community from the Mayor to local businesses, and the town's residents are all active participants in this program. Communication between the officials and the community's residents is critical to this program's success.
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As previously mentioned, the National Weather Service works with everyone in the community from the Mayor to Emergency Management to local businesses and the residents themselves to make sure that the town completes the process of certification from filling out the application through the review process after each step is completed.
In order to accomplish this, the Local National Weather Office that services the forecast area that the town applying for certification plays a very critical role in this process of certification. Once certified, the town continues to improve on its action plan to protect itself from threatening weather such as tornadoes, flooding, and hurricanes. In order for the town to become certified as StormReady, it must do the following:.
- Establish a 24-hour warning point and emergency operations center.
- Have more than one way to receive severe weather forecasts and warning and to alert the public.
- Create a system that monitors local weather conditions
- Promote the importance of public readiness through community seminars
- Develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
During the process, the Local Weather Service Office conducts a review process after each phase to make sure that the community applying for certification has thoroughly completed and passed the step being made. This includes reviewing applications from municipalities to actually visiting the community to ensure that they've fulfilled the requirement. StormReady communities must continue to stay ahead of the curve as far as preparation since their certification is only valid for two years.
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Recently, the Mount Holly office of the National Weather Service certified the town of Avalon, New Jersey in Cape May County as StormReady. The certification was given on July 25th, 2001 and lasts for two years until July 25th, 2003 when Avalon will have to re-apply. Avalon became the second community throughout the Mount Holly, New Jersey forecasting area to receive this distinction.
Avalon also participates in the Project Impact program by the Federal Emergency Management Agency as well along with towns such as Freeport, New York, Ocean City, and Atlantic City. The town of Avalon, is one of twenty communities nationwide that received StormReady designation by the National Weather Service in 2001. Avalon has been working very hard to improve its storm readiness and hazard mitigation.
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