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Sussex County Department of Human Services Convenes a Disaster Response Program
Release Date: June 27, 2013

Sussex County Department of Human Services Convenes a Disaster Response Program

The Sussex County Department of Human Services held "Super Storm Sandy: What Have We Learned" Disaster Response Program on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at 9:00 a.m., at the Lafayette House. Approximately, 100 members of the community attended representing various segments of the community, which included first responders, Municipal Officials, Police Officers, school personnel, medical professionals, Disaster Response Crisis Counselors, non-profit organizations, public health administration and community members. The program was designed to provide information on lessons learned from Super Storm Sandy and to discuss how to improve our response efforts in the future as a community.

Department Administrator Stephen Gruchacz and Freeholder Liaison Gail Phoebus recognized the efforts of Sussex County residents coming together during the storm and its aftermath and thanked attendees for their dedication in serving the community in their respective roles. Mr. Gruchacz also spoke about the important role that the Sussex County Disaster Response Crisis Counselors (DRCC) played at the Hopatcong shelter in response to Super Storm Sandy. DRCCs worked tirelessly for hours at the shelter, caring for the needs of the displaced residents and offering support. A DRCC is an individual with 28 hours of training in Psychological First Aid, crisis counseling, ethics, cultural and substance abuse issues.

Sheriff's Officer and Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Mark Vogel presented an overview of the NJ Register Ready initiative, otherwise known as the NJ Special Needs Registry. This voluntary registry provides emergency responders with necessary information regarding Sussex County residents who require special accommodations in the event of a disaster or emergency. S.O. Vogel explained the various methods of registration for Register Ready and explored additional emergency preparedness action steps such as creating a household plan and a readiness kit.

Steven Crimando, Director of the NJ Disaster and Terrorism Branch and Officer Robert Haffner of the Hopatcong Police Department and Hopatcong CERT team were keynote speakers of the program. Mr. Crimando spoke about lessons learned in the statewide Sandy response and presented an overview of the State Disaster Behavioral Health System, including the purpose and importance of DRCCs. He discussed the future of the New Jersey DRCC Program and the Disaster Behavioral Health Field. Officer Haffner reiterated the value of the DRCCs by commenting on his positive experiences with the counselors at the Hopatcong shelter.

The Sussex County Department of Human Services plans on creating additional opportunities to increase community cohesion for effective disaster response. For more information, please contact Christine Florio, Sussex County Division of Community and Youth Services, at cflorio@sussex.nj.us or (973) 948-6000 ext. 1381.

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