CAPE MAY COURT HOUSE, NJ -- The Cape May County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) received the 2019 Achievement Award from the National Association of Counties (NACo) in the Public Safety category. The awards are given in 18 different categories and reflect the vast, comprehensive services counties provide and honors innovative and effective county government programs that strengthen services for residents, competing with projects and programs submitted from counties throughout the nation.
Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton, said, "It is an honor for Cape May County to be acknowledged by an organization such as NACo, this achievement award is not taken lightly and is a source of pride for the Board of Chosen Freeholders and the Office of Emergency Management. For Cape May County to be recognized among 3,069 county governments in the United States, speaks to the level services this county provides to our residents. This award points to the outstanding job done at all levels of government to keep our citizens safe and protected through new and innovative programs and projects. The OEM building renovations was a project that needed to be done and resulted in tremendous cost savings as well as technological advancements not yet available in other counties".
The OEM headquarters were located in the basement of the County library which had limited space and did not allow for needed growth for updated and essential services. The expense to implement required upgrades for advanced communications in the existing facility was cost prohibitive. After research and deliberation, it was decided to relocate OEM from its present location to a facility that would allow the County to meet its goals to provide the necessary improvements in technology and communications to ensure public safety in emergencies and natural disasters.
Freeholder Director Gerald M. Thornton, liaison to OEM, along with the Board of Chosen Freeholders entered into an agreement to renovate and share a building with Lower Township to develop a state-of-the-art Emergency Management office and a Public Safety building. The structure, located at the Cape May County Airport, was large enough to adequately house both entities with room to grow well into the future. This decision realized a savings for both the County and Lower Township of approximately $3 million in construction costs, had they decided to go the route of individual buildings.
"This project was a win/win for Cape May County and Lower Township. While cost savings is important, the overall concern was public safety. The new facility houses central dispatch which will allow for better communications with local police, fire and emergency services. Communications between municipalities, the State and Federal agencies during a crisis was an issue that needed to be address. Included in the equipment upgrades was two radio systems, one being a 700-megahertz system that allowed for radio communication throughout the State", Freeholder Director Thornton said.
Technology has created major improvements in public safety with new and innovative software such as CodeRED and Flood Risk Mapping System to better communicate with homeowners to help them prepare for severe weather conditions from anywhere in the world. Homeowners can get alerts on their phones computers and hand held devices. The Flood Risk Mapping system will allow them to track potential flooding up to three days before the predicted storm.
"Communication between OEM and the citizens during any emergency situation is extremely important but often difficult, especially in a coastal county with 47% of the dwellings second or vacation homes. The upgrade in the communication system enabled the county to join CodeRED, an emergency alert system used during emergencies and in advance of major storms. The Flood Risk Mapping allows homeowners to track potential flooding in their neighborhoods with real time accuracy. This data is provided at no charge to the residents and can result savings from property damage", reported Martin Pagliughi, Director of Cape May County OEM.
“We received four NACo awards over the past few years that include the County Park and Zoo, Wellness Program, Library and Police Academy, the 2019 Achievement Award to the Office of Emergency Management confirms that Cape May County continues operate efficiently and effectively, leading the Country in innovative and programs and services”, Thornton added.