There are 3,041 communities and sites in the U.S. that have been certified as StormReady — a National Weather Service designation for places prepared to save lives during severe weather. Of those, 1,491 are counties.
But even though New Jersey, as a coastal state, is especially vulnerable to life-threatening hurricanes, none of its counties applied for and achieved the NWS designation until this spring when Cape May County was certified StormReady.
The program helps prepare for severe weather through planning, education and awareness. It helps communities establish clear-cut guidelines for emergency managers to improve their hazardous weather operations.
To qualify for the designation, a community must: • Establish a 24-hour warning and emergency operations center; • Have more than one way to receive severe weather warnings and forecasts and to alert the public; • Create a system that monitors weather conditions locally; • Promote public readiness through community seminars; • And develop a formal hazardous weather plan, which includes training severe weather spotters and holding emergency exercises.
StormReady certification is open to communities, counties, Indian nations, colleges, military bases, government sites, commercial enterprises and other groups. In New Jersey, there are 18 communities considered StormReady, including Somers Point, Longport and three towns on Long Beach Island. Municipalities qualifying on their own or as part of a certified county earn FEMA community rating points toward reducing flood insurance costs for their residents.
New Jersey has been a little slow in embracing this program to help people respond to weather emergencies, which cause nearly all of the federally designated natural disasters. In Pennsylvania, Delaware, Florida and South Carolina, all counties/communities are NWS certified as StormReady.
Coastal New Jersey counties especially should consider using this program to tune up their storm and emergency preparedness systems. That plus the renewal process every three years would ensure a smoother and safer response when disastrous weather inevitably arrives.