FREEHOLD, NJ – Partners of the Monmouth ACTS initiative are working hard to ensure that some of the most vulnerable members of the population – seniors and people with disabilities – are prepared before winter storms hit.
A joint partnership between the Monmouth County Aging Disability Resource Connection and the Monmouth County Senior Advisory Council, in partnership with the Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM), has produced and launched new disaster “Ready-Go” Bags, and are providing them to Monmouth County residents free of charge at several sign up events in coastal communities this early winter season.
The blue 14” by 18” canvas Ready-Go Bags are designed to empower seniors and people with disabilities to think about what they would need to take at a moment’s notice in a disaster, and gather it in one easy-to-grab bag. The bag contains a list of emergency contacts, medical conditions and a vital documents checklist, as well as a magnifier in case eyeglasses are left behind. There is also information from FEMA that addresses senior, disabled and pet preparedness for, during and after a disaster.
Great thought went into the bag’s contents and “purposeful design. It’s sized for people to wear around their bodies like a messenger bag,” explains Sue Moleon, Director, Monmouth County Division on Aging, Disabilities and Veterans Services. “Its adjustable strap accommodates any body size, and it’s comfortable enough to keep on, sleep in and use the facilities.” The bag latches with Velcro, making it secure but still easy to open for seniors, and a label on the front of the bag reads, “In case of emergency, this bag must accompany me to all shelters, hospitals and evacuation sites.”
To date, Monmouth County has held five information presentations and distribution events for the Ready-Go bags, with another planned for early January. Currently, the bags are available to seniors in the County’s coastal communities. Seniors receiving the bags must first enroll in the NJ Register Ready program with the Monmouth County Sheriff’s Office of Emergency Management, which allows residents with disabilities or access/functional needs to provide emergency response agencies with information about their circumstances, enabling emergency responders to better serve them during time-sensitive evacuations.
With the public and private entities coming together to produce the Ready-Go Bags with the spirit of Monmouth ACTS, the hope is that residents take advantage of the helpful resources offered within the County, before winter storms strike and leave people helpless. A recent study from the University of Michigan Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation found that only 29% of older adults have a prepared emergency kit ready for disaster. Monmouth County Freeholder Susan M. Kiley, liaison to the County’s health and human services departments, said she couldn’t help but remember how many seniors and people with disabilities were left helpless after Hurricane Sandy, which hit Monmouth County seven years ago.
“Many of Monmouth County’s 100,000 Sandy evacuees did not have the time to collect their vital documents or organize their medications when the hurricane hit,” Freeholder Kiley says. “These Ready-Go Bags represent a tremendous collaborative effort to prevent that from happening again. It’s a perfect example of what Monmouth ACTS is trying to do – bring government and private organizations together to streamline our work and provide great services for every population of Monmouth County.”
Dr. Mary Jane Celli, 85, Long Branch City Council, attended a recent event at the Long Branch Community Center and picked up her Ready-Go Bag. She lives just five blocks from the ocean and remembers the devastation Sandy brought to Monmouth County well, so she plans to put her medications, plenty of water, clothes, emergency contacts and other vital personal items in her bag. “The County has done an excellent job in getting the word out,” Dr. Celli says. “Thank you to the Freeholders and Sheriff for all they’ve done for our citizens.”
For information about the Ready-Go Bag for members of coastal communities, call the Office on Aging at 732-431-7450.
About Monmouth ACTS
Monmouth ACTS (Assisting Community Through Services) was created by the Monmouth County Board of Chosen Freeholders in 2018 to carry out recommendations of a Human Services Needs Assessment. This innovative public-private partnership brings together County employees from the Department of Human Services and community/private partners on the Monmouth ACTS Advisory Council (MAAC) to enhance access to services for County residents. For more information, visit www.monmouthACTS.org.