Senate Approves Buono Measure To Coordinate Emergency Response Programs

TRENTON – The Senate approved a measure today sponsored by Senator Barbara Buono that would provide for the development of coordinated State and county emergency response plans.

“A well-developed response plan and strong lines of communication between State, county and local authorities are essential in minimizing the impact of any emergency,” said Senator Buono, D-Middlesex. “The best time to examine existing procedures and make sure all jurisdictions are prepared to take action is right now, before any new emergencies may arise. This is not something we can afford to put off any longer.”

Senator Buono’s bill, S-948, would require the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), with the concurrence of the Department of Health and Senior Services and the State Office of Emergency Management in the Division of State Police in the Department of Law and Public Safety, to develop a comprehensive plan for the standardization and coordination of county hazardous material response programs to effectively address all incidents involving hazardous materials, including chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear, or explosive incidents.

The bill would also require the certified local health agency in each county to develop, in consultation with their county office of emergency management, a comprehensive, coordinated county-wide emergency response program for incidents involving hazardous materials that is consistent with the plan developed by the DEP. For any county in which there is no certified local health agency, the substitute bill would require the board of chosen freeholders to designate a local health agency from the county to develop, in consultation with their county office of emergency management and the Department of health and Senior Services, the comprehensive, coordinated county-wide emergency response program for the county that is consistent with the plan developed by the DEP. Grants would be made available to defray the costs of developing these programs.

“Accidents involving dangerous materials are going to need swift action from all levels of government in order to be quickly contained and effectively treated. Inadequately addressing the potential dangers and hoping for the best won’t make us safer. What will make us safer is expecting the worst and knowing how to properly deal with it when it comes,” said Senator Buono.

The bill passed the Senate by a vote of 38-0. It now goes to the Governor’s desk for his signature.