One Year After Hurricane Irene, City Implements Changes to Increase Emergency Preparedness
If another hurricane hit the region, how prepared would Hoboken be? Mayor Dawn Zimmer looks back and discusses some of the changes in the city since the Irene hit.
Exactly one year ago, Hoboken residents woke up to heavy wind, torrential rain and flooding all over town. Hurricane Irene, the largest storm to hit the region in many decades, had arrived.
The streets were empty and quiet. Cars had been moved. Stores were closed and windows boarded up.
Hoboken looked like a ghost town.
Inside City Hall, however, things were less quiet. Mayor Dawn Zimmer—together with the police and fire departments as well as the office of emergency management—worked through the night, monitoring the storm and keeping the Hobokenites who hadn't evacuated safe.
Since last year's storm, some changes were implemented to make the emergency preparedness better in the future.
"What I remember most," Zimmer said, "is everyone coming together. How everyone volunteered."
One of the changes since last year, Zimmer said, is the city's reverse 9-1-1 system. In case of an emergency, Hobokenites and business owners with a land line will receive a phone call from the city. Zimmer encouraged Hoboken residents to sign up for the system through their cell phones.
So far, said City Spokesman Juan Melli, 600 people have signed up through their cell phones.
If such a storm struck again, Zimmer said, she would make sure to increase direct communication with Hoboken residents. The reverse 9-1-1 system should help with that, Zimmer said.
She also said she'd focus more on communicating with residents in the Hoboken Housing Authority, an area of town that was hit particularly hard during the hurricane.
"We would expand our communication with the Housing Authority," Zimmer said. "I'd do more to make sure that they are fully prepared."
Another change since a year ago is that the city now has a wet weather pump. While the pump wouldn't be able to stop the city from flooding in the event of a hurricane, it would help the water go down quicker after the storm.
"It wasn't just one day (of flooding)," Zimmer said, "it was three days."
Zimmer said she also wants to expand the city's Community Emergency Response Team. Last year, Hoboken's CERT volunteered throughout the entire weekend, knocking on people's doors to inform them and manning the call center.
"I hope we don't have to do it again," said Zimmer, " but if we do, we'll be better prepared."