There are many towns and communities along the coastal New York and New Jersey region that are vulnerable to hurricanes and other forms of severe weather such as tornadoes, nor'easters, and thunderstorms. As a matter of fact, New York is the second highest in terms of insured property behind Florida while New Jersey has a number of communities that have suffered multiple insurance losses.
As of 1997, there were a total of sixteen New Jersey coastal communities that were among the Top 200 communities in the United States that have had to endure multiple insurance losses. Among those cities were Avalon and Ocean City. Ocean City was ranked the highest out of all of the sixteen communities with a ranking of 18th on the list.
Well, both of Avalon and Ocean City are taking big steps in order to change that. This article focuses on the changes that Avalon has made over the past several years. We had the opportunity to get a lot of great information from Harry DeButts, who is in charge of storm preparedness and hazard mitigation in Avalon.
In 1998, FEMA, the Federal Emergency Management Agency asked a number of communities throughout the United States to become a part of their Project Impact program. Project Impact is a program focused on hazard mitigation, which helps improve the state of preparedness for towns that are effected by coastal storms, tornadoes, earthquakes, and other natural disasters.
Among the towns that answered the call were Freeport, New York, which is located on Long Island, Avalon and Ocean City in New Jersey. Avalon, which is quite vulnerable to hurricanes and other coastal storms, is a town located in the southern New Jersey County of Cape May.
Its population year round is about 2,000 people, but that grows to about 40,000 during the busy summer season when people look to get away by going down to the New Jersey shore. There are currently about 19,000 homes and businesses in the community. Of that 19,000, there are approximately 400 homes and businesses that are in flood prone areas.
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Taking that statistic very seriously, Avalon has deployed their emergency management team to find ways to prevent heavy losses when the next disaster comes. Their emergency management coordinator is Harry DeButts, who is very active with both FEMA, and the National Weather Service in Mount Holly, New Jersey.
He is always presented at local Hurricane Conferences, and is working hard to make sure the town of Avalon is well prepared for any severe weather situation. Two things that DeButts has done is getting Avalon involved in FEMA's Project Impact, and helping the town obtain StormReady certification from the National Weather Service.
With Project Impact, DeButts has helped Avalon institute several protective measures that includes an elevated dune system, beachfront splashwall inlet facing, tideflex valves, and stream water pumping stations. Avalon now participates in the Community Rating System of the National Flood Insurance Program and has improve so much that it received a Level 8 rating. So, the town has made tremendous strides in the area of hazard mitigation.
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Meanwhile, Avalon has also taken steps to improve its storm readiness in addition to its hazard mitigation. Again, DeButts has been at the forefront as he has convinced local officials in the town to establish a communication system that will disseminate information rapidly to decision-makers and residents in case a severe weather event happens to develop in their area.
After they had established that, DeButts got in touch with the National Weather Service office in Mount Holly to see if he could obtain StormReady certification for the town of Avalon. StormReady is a national program run by the National Weather Service, which is basically a certification program that has local National Weather Service offices work with their respective communities on obtaining such certification.
They do this by reviewing a checklist of criteria that the town has to meet in order to be certified. Once the criteria are met, and representatives of the local NWS are satisfied after a visit to the site, the town is certified as StormReady. The certification is good for two years, and within that time the town has to continue to improve on its storm readiness.
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