chistie disaster prep

Christie Takes Disaster Preparations to a New Level

Hurricane Irene moved past the Jersey Shore leaving a trail of destruction and causing major flooding throughout the state.

Thousands of customers in Monmouth and Ocean County were left without power, sometime for days due to the damaging winds and heavy rains associated with the storm.

Due to the preparedness of state officials and emergency preparedness organizations, residents went above and beyond, taking precautionary measures to stay safe be-fore and during Irene, which was deemed a tropical storm by the time it reached New Jersey.

Governor Chris Christie gained praise for his involvement towards the preparedness for the Hurricane. As soon as Christie began warning New Jersey residents that Irene was headed our way, his public relations staff organized a line of press conferences as well as online presences on Twitter and YouTube.

Christie’s voice appeared to be heard everywhere talking about the storm. He was a guest on “Meet the Press” and toured the state be-fore the storm. His involvement in relief efforts acquired praise, even from his critics. “Get the hell off the Beach in Asbury Park and get out. You’re done. It’s 4:30 PM. You’ve maximized your tan. Get off the beach. Get in you cars and get out of those areas,” Christie said addressing the coastline two days prior to the arrival of Irene.

“The storm was a political victory for the governor,” Julie Roginsky, a longtime Democratic strategist, said. “You got someone who looks like he was everywhere all at once and had his hand in everything.”

Christie also gained praise and backing for debating with Republic leaders in Washington who insisted that states must first figure out where to make spending cuts before they receive any aid from the government. The Governor argued that help and support was needed to those who were suffering immediately, and budget cuts could be figured out afterwards.

After the storm, Christie didn’t disappear. He traveled throughout the state assessing the damage from Lincoln Park to Ewing and arrived in Paterson with President Obama.

Their words assured the public that help would be on its way to those who needed it and that they genuinely cared. The cleanup efforts, therefore, started immediately.

This isn’t the first time Christie led a large-scale announcement production. During his first year and a half in office, he showed up at over 40 town meetings. His dedication to the above and beyond preparedness of New Jersey residents will certainly be remembered if indeed he decides to run for Presidential office in 2012.

“Some stuff I saw and experienced was pretty incredible. In Wayne, in an area that has not flood-ed before, I saw just extraordinary despair…I’ve never seen flooding like that before,” Christie said. The governor was constantly giving up-dates on the estimated number of residents still without power.

He also pleaded for people with-out power to hang in there and stop complaining, while there are many residents who lost their homes to the storm’s damage.

Junior student, Emily Fiore, lost power for five days in Toms River. “I feel like the politicians and local emergency management services went above and beyond by preparing people and warned days in advance for residents to relocate,” Fiore said.

Christie commended the National Guard and the Salvation Army for their relief efforts, who delivered roughly 27,000 meals a day.

Congressman Frank Pallone, who represents District Six which comprises the majority of the Monmouth County coastline, also had an active role in making sure residents felt safe during and after the storm. Pal-lone asked President Obama to visit distressed areas in order to discuss disaster assistance.

“Since Hurricane Katrina, it is clear federal and state governments have made significant improvements in disaster preparedness. Co-ordination between federal and state officials was well-organized and I was struck by the number of New Jerseyans that heeded the calls to evacuate threatened areas,” Pallone wrote. “Despite our best planning, however, flooding has damaged homes, businesses and roads in my district and across the state.”

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) also had an active role in communicating ways New Jerseyans can safely prepare for disaster. FEMA’s mission is to prepare for natural disasters such as hurricanes, earthquakes, and nuclear power plant emergencies.

It is a subdivision of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Dr. Kathryn Kloby of the Political Science Department said, “My sense is that FEMA’s mission is an important one, yet it often gets lost in the bureaucratic shuffle since it is part of a federal agency as large as the Department of Homeland Security itself.”

While the Department of Home-land Security focuses on national outside threats, cyber security, and border patrol, FEMA supports state and local governments, as well citizen groups. When Hurricane Irene loomed over New Jersey, FEMA took precautionary measures in an event that nuclear power plants in the state would malfunction. There-fore, some feel that the work of FEMA is necessary.

However, others feel that FEMA should be removed from the Department of Homeland Security and feel that it requires too much funding to meet its mission. “The after-math of the debt ceiling debate and outcomes will determine this. We are in a political environment where both sides of the aisle are supportive of cutting government programs and services.

The amount of budgetary impact to be absorbed by FEMA will depend on how vital the public and elected officials think it is to contributing to homeland security,” said Kloby.

Representative of District 12 of New Jersey, Congressman Rush Holt sent out a message to the public soon after the storm. He informed the public that the country will stand by those who encountered the devastation of Irene.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has declared all 21 counties in New Jersey to be natural disaster areas, making homeowners eligible for financial assistance.

Congressman Holt encourages residents to apply and document losses and expenses if they incurred any uninsured costs because of Hurricane Irene, for example, costs to pump water out of basements, to replace a water heater, to stay in temporary housing, or even the cost of unemployment while an office was flooded.

Kloby said, “I gather that the value placed on the work of FEMA will depend on how responsive it has been in recent events such as Hurricane Irene and whether it was able to overcome the tarnished image left by its failures in handling a response to Hurricane Katrina.”