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Real emergency preparedness begins long before any hint of a disaster. It starts with people discussing scenarios and saying, What would we do if… and then conceiving of response and recovery strategies and planning accordingly. “Whether you are planning response and recovery for yourself or your family, your business, or the entire country, the process is the same even though the scale of the effort is admittedly dramatically different,” says NJ 2-1-1 executive director Melissa Acree.
June was Disaster Recovery Month, so 2-1-1 practiced what we always preach, and took the opportunity to follow best practices and review our office emergency plan with our staff, including what was to be done in the case of a natural disaster or in response to an intruder or terrorist event. No one ever wakes up in the morning and says I’m going to have an accident today, and yet, unexpected things occur every day. Emergency plans provide a clear roadmap for what to do next and also ensure that you will have essential supplies at the ready (food, water, flashlight…) should you need to shelter in place.
Several members of our staff also participated in a Flu on Call Simulation in June. Working with the Centers for Disease Control and United Way Worldwide on this initiative, NJ 2-1-1 joined with 27 other 2-1-1s around the country to practice the skills and responses that would be needed in the event of a pandemic. In preparation for the day, staff undergoes six to eight hours of training and must learn how to use a different telephone and client record system. During the four hour simulation, we spoke with callers who were pretending to be caught up in the pandemic. Our staff was trained to assess the caller’s situation and depending upon the circumstances, transfer the caller to a medical professional or provide information from the CDC guidelines we had received. NJ 2-1-1 has been involved in this emergency simulation since its inception in 2014 when we were chosen along with nine other 2-1-1s to pilot the effort.
NJ 2-1-1 celebrated partnerships and collaborations at a recent event entitled It’s all about the Connection! “This is a proud moment in time for NJ 2-1-1,” said board president Gina Plotino as she welcomed a room filled with representatives from partnership agencies, government officials and corporate supporters. “We are so pleased to be in a position to recognize the people who have championed our cause for so many years and helped us in such significant ways. Without you I don’t know if NJ 2-1-1 would have ever been in a position to make help happen for so many people in New Jersey.”
Elizabeth Connolly, Commissioner of NJ Department of Human Services, was present to accept an award on behalf of her department for its unwavering support within State government. Other honorees included Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg and Assembly Majority Leader Lou Greenwald for their roles in championing the founding of the 2-1-1 resource services for vulnerable populations; Middlesex County Continuum of Care and Coming Home for their collaborative efforts to end homelessness; IBM for the technological support it has given to our organization through the years; and our very own Hurricane Team who used their training and experience to aid residents of Florida and North Carolina after Hurricane Matthew left devastation in its wake.
The final award of the morning was the Laura Zink Marx Founders Award. We were honored to welcome Laura, our founding executive director (now serving as executive director of United Way of North Carolina) back to NJ. She presented the award to Tom Toronto, chief executive officer of Bergen County’s United Way who understood the value of the 2-1-1 system long before most people had ever been exposed to the concept. Tom strongly advocated on our behalf and would not let the idea rest until NJ 2-1-1 was a reality. He has been, and continues to be, a vocal supporter of NJ 2-1-1 believing that, as a subsidiary of the United Ways of NJ, the organization enables the United Ways to most efficiently serve their communities and all vulnerable people in need of essential services. Watch some highlights from the event.
A new fiscal year began in New Jersey on July 1 and with it came the start of a new year for the Kinship Navigator Program, a program designed to provide assistance to those who are caring for an absent relative's child or children. Beneficiaries must apply each year even if they were registered for the program in prior years. Benefits for those eligible, include financial assistance with child rearing costs like food, clothing, furniture, and other child-related expenses. To find out more about the Kinship Navigator Program and related programs or to renew your registration, dial 2-1-1.
Our website has lots of information about resources that offer low- or no-cost opportunities for fun this summer, places to beat the heat and more!